§ [Relevant document: First Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee of Session 1991–92 on Central and Eastern Europe: Problems of the Post-Communist Era (House of Commons Paper No. 21).]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further sum not exceeding £27,939,000 be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund to defray the charges that will come in course of payment during the year ending on 31st March 1992 for expenditure by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on grants and subscriptions etc. to certain international organisations, special payments and assistance, scholarships, military aid and sundry other grants and services.—[Mr. Douglas Hogg.]
§ Mr. Speaker
We now come to the class II, vote 2 estimates, and I must draw the attention of the House to the fact that the subject for today's debate is Yugoslavia and not the whole of the Select Committee report.
§ Mr. David Howell (Guildford)
The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs will be grateful for this opportunity for a brief debate on Yugoslavia related to the vote on the Order Paper and also to that part of the recent report from the Select Committee which covered central Europe as a whole, but which also related to Yugoslavia and the crisis and the killing going on there. This could hardly be a better time for the House to consider developments in Yugoslavia, because, while we are debating this matter, a major United Nations force is beginning to be put together to move into the former Yugoslavia.
It is the first United Nations force in history to be assembled on the European mainland. So far, 22 nations have said that they will take part. It will cost an estimated $633 million for the first year, although my own view is that that will only be the beginning and that it is likely to stay there for much longer than that. As I understand it—no doubt my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office will clarify the matter—Britain has offered to participate through a 1,000-strong logistical battalion. This is the beginning of a mighty operation. It is not the biggest United Nations operation since the war, but it is the first ever on the European mainland, and it is very sobering that it should be so.
The situation in Balkans is an extreme example of the splintering, fragmentation and self-determination run riot that has followed the retreat of the communist ice age and the withdrawal of the Communist party tyrannies all over eastern and central Europe, leaving behind many disputes, bitternesses and hatreds which many people mistakenly thought had been buried in history, but which turned out to have been living all the time in the mud, strife and debris under the communist tyranny veneer.
The Select Committee, whose members visited parts of the former Yugoslavia, found again and again witnesses saying that what had been going on in Croatia—the conflict between the Serbians and the federal forces and 462 between the Serbian enclaves in Croatia and Krajina and the Croatian forces—was merely the prelude to further conflicts. All the people we saw were convinced that there was more terror and bloodshed and more horror to come. That was a grim prospect.
Again, even as we debate the issue, the neighbouring state or province—it is not yet fully recognised as a state—of Bosnia-Herzegovina is in great danger. The tensions there are rising by the hour. They appear to have been triggered partly by the recognition of Croatian independence by the European Community in a rather rushed way. The United States and United Nations still hold back from that recognition. The tensions were also triggered, of course, by the referendum. It was recommended to the Bosnians by the European Community, but it has created incredible tension.
We hear reports that Sarajevo is like a tinder box, that peace is on a knife edge and that the prospect could be about to open up of Croatians, Serbians and Muslims fighting each other again. Indeed, some have already died in the past few days. Just as it is a "first" that the United Nations is mounting a vast operation on European mainland soil, so it is a first in recent times, although certainly not in history, that Muslims could be fighting Christians. Of course, Christians of one denomination are also fighting Christians of another denomination in the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
It is also a sign of a remarkable reinvolvement of that problematical country and nation, Turkey, in areas from which it was driven many decades ago. Indeed, the issues of Turkish domination in those parts were hotly debated in the House 100 years ago and more.
So that is the ugly and miserable scene. Many thousands of people have already died and United Nations troops are now being asked to go into this precarious situation. Several international organisations have already been involved and the Select Committee's report examined the position of all of them.
The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe tried without much effect to calm down the processes of the independence of Slovenia and the move towards independence by Croatia. The invasion of the federal Serbian-backed forces led to the killing in recent months.
Then the European Community sought to establish a peace process and put monitors into the area. It eventually put pressure on the Serbians in particular, but Yugoslavia in general, by introducing economic sanctions. Then came the recognition that none of that was having much effect and that the time had come for a higher level of intervention by the United Nations. That is what we are seeing unfold. Meanwhile, the EC peace efforts continue.
If I may offer my own view, no praise is too high for the role being played by Lord Carrington, who has had the unenviable task of heading the Hague peace conference under the aegis of the EC in an attempt to bring these warring people to the peace table. So far, the conference has had some success. Indeed, with the prospect of the United Nations forces coming in, it has succeeded to the point of achieving a ceasefire, but at any moment things could go badly into reverse.
It is an ugly and dangerous situation. No one can say with confidence that the blooddshed is over or even that an end is in sight. One has to ask, and the report of the Select Committee asked, what lessons can be learned from the events in Yugoslavia. For instance, did the interventions of 463 the European Community help or hinder the process? One must say that the EC monitors were brave. It was a tragedy that some of them were killed. They appeared to do a good job. The EC trade sanctions may also have brought it home to the Serbians and Mr. Milosevic that the outside world would not put up for ever with the uncontrolled assaults of the federal army and the ridiculous exercises in which the federal troops indulged in trying to destroy the pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnic, and in other atrocities.
However, at the same time, it must be accepted that the EC's recognition of Croatia went against the recommendations of its own arbitration commission under Mr. Badinter. The Select Committee had the opportunity to meet the arbitration committee. We met Mr. Badinter.
There was no doubt, once it had been established that the EC was going to recognise Croatia and did so, that it added new fears to the minds of the Serbian minority in Croatia and in Bosnia, where there has been a referendum in which the Serbians refused to take part. That, added to other tensions and worries—blame can be fairly laid on all sides and no one side can be accused of being all guilty—has brought the pattern of conflict to an extremely dangerous point.
On 11 November last year, some members of the Select Committee met Mr. Slobodan Milosevic in his baroque palace in Belgrade. He told the Committee a number of things. He gave some absurd and transparent excuses, which did not impress us at all, for the behaviour of the federal army, which was rampaging round Dubrovnik at the time.
However we caught hold of one of his remarks. For the first time he was prepared to consider the admission of the United Nations to the scene. His views were clear about the terms on which he wanted that to happen—the United Nations forces should come into the Serbian enclave areas of Bosnia, Krajina and other parts of the former frontier province areas between Bosnia and Croatia and they should stay there for many years. He wanted them to stay there as long as was required for tempers and memories to cool, if that were possible. Heaven knows, memories are monstrously long down there—there are plenty of monstrous things to remember—and they seem to go on for ever. He thought that if the United Nations troops stayed long enough it would be possible to freeze the political status of those enclaves, so that the unending dispute about whether they were Serbian or part of Croatia, and whether they should have autonomy, and of what kind, could at last be settled in a peaceful atmosphere.
The view which has come out of Zagreb and from the Croatians has always been totally different. They have said that they will let the United Nations in—there was common ground there—but only for a few months while things are settled and before the lands revert to the new, independent Croatia, which is a totally different concept.
§ Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)
My right hon. Friend has given us the views of others, but he is reporting to the House the conclusions of a Select Committee. I hope that he will give us his unbiased view of the premature recognition by the European Community of Croatia, bearing in mind the fact that the boundaries of the various Yugoslav republics were determined by the arbitrary decision of the communist Tito. Croatia includes within its 464 boundaries a large Serbian minority, who have every reason to remember brutality and cruelty—which can only be compared with the worst excesses of the Nazis—committed against them in their country. Surely there can be no future in the present rulings unless the United Nations remains there permanently.
§ Mr. Howell
My right hon. Friend is right. That is on page 2 of my brief remarks, which I am coming to.
I want to offer some views, but in this situation views are easy. It is solutions to the contrary and the deeply held views of the parties involved which are the difficult part. My right hon. Friend is right; those people hold violently different views on the validity of internal borders. Those difficulties will continue, even though the United Nations troops are there, which leads the Committee to the view thatit is likely that UN troops will find it extremely hard to withdraw for many years hencealthough the present commitment is to stay for one year. Urged on by my right hon. Friend, I stress that it is important to consider what can be done by those outside—the international order and the United Nations. What lessons can be drawn so that a better life and higher justice will prevail over the justice of the bullet and the slaughter that have prevailed in recent months?
As the Select Committee pointed out, the United Nations intervention raises new issues. It takes the United Nations beyond its reluctance to intervene in domestic affairs. Yugoslavia remains an international personality to this day. In theory, the United Nations is interfering in a nation state. Even if one accepts that Yugoslavia is finished—in practice it is, more or less—the United Nations is intervening in an area where there are disputes about whether it is on Croatian soil, as President Tudjman insists it is, or is in a Serbian enclave, as Mr. Babic and others claim. Alternatively, will the United Nations remain in a no man's land until somebody decides whose rules prevails and what the law should be?
The Committee's second question was whether the European Community had succeeded in "managing" the Balkan turmoil or it was a hopeless task? I and some of the members of the Committee were uneasy when we sensed that the European Community was seen to be intervening, not necessarily in line with a particular strategy, because it felt that it had to do something. It felt that its foreign policy had to be gathered together and something should be done; the result was EC intervention.
One could argue, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) has argued with characteristic forcefulness, that that led to extraordinary action whereby the European Community did not recognise Croatia in the summer, when that might have achieved some good, but rushed to do so in January, when it was driven on by German insistence. That happened in a way that was bound to harden attitudes all round, increase tensions and raise the temperatures in Bosnia and Sarajevo. That might lead to yet more killing. That is a real danger, which was foreseen by some, but not other policy makers in central Europe, and it has led to a worsening of the crisis.
The Select Committee took the view that our hopes must rest on the United Nations as an effective force. It may have to remain in Yugoslavia for some time. Its forces should go to Sarajevo, where the headquarters of one of its administrative offices has already been set up. It must 465 demonstrate forcefully to all the parties concerned that they have nothing to gain from more fighting or killing. That is true for Mr. Milosevic and his encouragement of the remaining federal army forces in Bosnia, for the Croats who wish to bring the Croats of Bosnia into a greater Croatia and the Muslims, who, it is reported, are arming themselves and seeking help from fellow Muslims outside the Balkans and Europe. None of them will gain and that should be demonstrated. Hitherto, that has been a sad and weak demonstration. Now it must be strong.
The longer-term task must be to decide how such little nations can settle down with their own independence or how they can work together. If four or five of them want to create a new form of Yugoslavia, they should be allowed to do so. I hope that the Committee made it clear that the fullest possible support should be given to the large UN forces to be deployed. It will be made up of 13,240 military personnel in a total contingent of 14,287. It represents the third largest UN commitment since 1945. Support for that body is our immediate task.
In the longer term, we must find a new role for and the principles upon which the United Nations can act and define the security context of the new mini-nations. Will they be embraced by NATO or the new North Atlantic Co-operation Council? On trade and economics, Slovenia and Croatia are considering applying to join the European Community. Will we welcome that? If not, what economic relationship will they have with us?
A lasting peace and democracy cannot be imposed or ordered from above or from outside. However much we try, that will come from the readiness of the people to elect leaders they trust, to have sound finance, good trade and democratic practices. They must realise that fighting will not pay and will only lead to more death and no gain to anyone. That is the Committee's objective view.
Meanwhile, I pray that this is not the beginning of another bloody chapter in Europe's history.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
History is not dead: it is alive and unwell in Yugoslavia. Those who wish to find heroes or villains in that tangled conflict or to discover the aggressors or apportion blame will start their clocks at different times. Some will go back to the second world war, some will go back to the first world war and some will reach back even further into history to the great fault line between the Ottoman empire and Christendom.
The immediate background to tragedy is the collapse of communism and the death of the charismatic Tito, which removed the evil and superficial overlay to reveal old national realities. Now that that overlay has been removed in Yugoslavia and elsewhere, there is a real danger that it will be replaced by authoritarian leaders or the military.
The speed of the dissolution—the implosion—of Yugoslavia and the depth of the anger between the different nationalities that it has revealed has surprised some. However, with the benefit of hindsight, that dissolution seemed almost inevitable given that so few unifying factors remain in what was once Yugoslavia.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) and his Select Committee on producing, yet again, a first-rate report, which is, of course, a valedictory dispatch. That Committee has been most fortunate because, for the past five years, it has observed one of the 466 most fascinating periods of history. During that time, the Committee has distinguished itself, as it has with this report, by bringing its wisdom to the House.
As the right hon. Gentleman said, this particular Select Committee report appears as a timely background to the debate. It has helped us to reflect on the lessons and perhaps it will enable us to avoid some of the looming tragedies that could occur in the remaining parts of what was once Yugoslavia. We may, of course, face similar challenges in various crises with the dissolution of the former Soviet Union. Even in Yugoslavia, as the right hon. Gentleman underlined, the tragedy may yet be played out because there is a precarious peace in Bosnia, and Macedonia offers its own special complexities.
The questions for us to analyse include what lessons we can learn from the drift to war since the summer of 1991. When could intervention by the international community have been justified and productive? For example, an arms ban could have amounted to intervention on behalf of one of the combatants, given the way in which arms were distributed between the various parties to the conflict. In the summer there were no simple, agreed frontiers and there were many pockets of fighting, which certainly would have endangered any peace-making forces that sought to intervene.
Was it too brutish for the international community to allow the combatants, in effect, to exhaust themselves? Perhaps we are faced with a similar problem in Nagorany Karabakh, after the failure of the peace-making efforts by Iranians and Turks, at a time when the CIS—the Commonwealth of Independent States—forces are withdrawing and when there seems to be no international body with the will and resources to intervene in that sad part of the world.
Was it right to try to keep the federal structures intact? Our presumption was that it was right to do so, certainly as a transitional mechanism, while a longer-term solution might be sought. We in the United Kingdom viewed some of the pressure that came from at least one of our EC partners with a certain wariness, because of our experience in Northern Ireland and in Cyprus. Precipitate intervention, in our view—knowing the difficulties of extricating oneself—would have considerable and long-term resource implications.
Key questions included the definition of national sovereignty. At what point could the international community intervene in a recognised country at a time of civil war? Similarly, a key quesiton was the point at which the component parts of a state could legitimately demand self-determination for themselves. Where were the limits? Was it a question of size? Where could one stop? There was also the question, as the Select Committee pointed out pertinently, of the recognition criteria—the fact that the Badinter criteria were overlooked or ignored by the Community, which accepted the fait accompli of its own recognition.
The Yugoslav crisis has revealed that the United Kingdom is not relevant on its own but only as part of its alliances. It has revealed that the European Community, after its dismal showing in the Gulf crisis, has played a key and largely positive role. But the problems of a common foreign and security policy, to come into effect formally post-Maastricht on 1 July of next year, are clearly revealed by an examination of the EC response to the crisis. The problems of Macedonia remain and may lead to a Greek opt-out of any EC decision.
§ Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)
Regarding Macedonia, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is nonsense for the Greeks to make so much fuss about a name when the people of Macedonia are Bulgar in origin and have no claims on any part of Greece?
§ Mr. Anderson
It is more than a name. As the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) pointed out, names and symbols have a particular relevance in that part of the world.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
The hon. Gentleman is making such an excellent speech that there was no need for that type of intervention from the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), bearing in mind the fact that Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great were not Bulgarians. Indeed, there is great danger of a collision coming as a result of the ill-treatment of the people of ethnic Greek origin in Macedonia, unless the matter is brought under proper control.
§ Mr. Anderson
I accept the complexities of the matter, so perhaps it would be imprudent of me to go further down that road just now.
A key card that was not played, at least not openly, was the fact that all the combatant republics in Yugoslavia would eventually, at the end of the fighting and when the dust had settled, be looking to the EC for financial assistance. That key leverage aspect was available to the Community, and had the EC, possibly earlier in the conflict, said in terms that any financial assistance would come only when the status quo ante in terms of frontiers had been established, that would have given a clear signal to the combatants and forced them to ask whether their fighting was worth while. That point may have been made forcefully in the corridors. It was not made openly.
Whatever criticism one may make of the EC monitors, it is clear that they were necessary at the time. They were the only show in town and nobody else was available. Presumably they will now fade away and be replaced by the United Nations. Indeed, there has been a curious parallelism between the EC and the UN—an overlap between their two roles. I fully join the right hon. Member for Guildford in congratulating Lord Carrington who, true to his reputation as a conciliator and mediator-inchief, has done a remarkable job in that area.
At times, the torch was passed to Cyrus Vance, with his own power base and legitimacy at the UN, and it was predicted that the EC would recognise the two republics, that that would provoke more bloodshed and that it could be argued that that would be an obstacle to a comprehensive peace. Happily, so far the dire predictions of that possibly precipitate recognition have not been borne out. The United States has not yet followed the EC line, but it now appears that Bosnia, after the referendum, probably satisfies the Badinter criteria. I agree with the right hon. Member for Guildford about the importance of the EC forces going in speedily to try to maintain the existing frontiers within Bosnia. That may be their key role.
The problem of what is the appropriate institution was addressed by Edward Mortimer in The Financial Times yesterday. He quoted from the NATO Rome summit of last November and wrote of the needfor a framework of interlocking institutions"—or, as he preferred to put it, a certain "institutional overcrowding." As we look around the landscape of 468 Europe, we see a vast variety of institutions which came into being at certain times for specific purposes and are still there, desperately looking for a role and seeking to expand their competences into spheres that were not envisaged when they were established. One understands that to be the professional deformation of people involved in organisations, be they the Council of Europe, Western European Union or NATO.
In June 1991, the CSCE—the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe—established what was described as "an emergency mechanism", but it is untried and the organisation is hamstrung by its consensus principle, the problems of resources, and, of course, the issue of legitimacy. It is suggested that the lack of a power base militarily on the part of the CSCE might be met by an expanded role for NATO in the form of a North Atlantic co-operation council.
The Select Committee veered towards favouring an expanded role for NATO in this and other conflicts. That conclusion is probably, at the least, premature—the bewildering overlap of functions might have to continue for some time—and we should be wary of the search for tidiness or the creation of new institutions to manage change and conflict.
Our aim must be to build and maintain a more stable Europe. The tragedy of Yugoslavia has provided a laboratory experiment which, unhappily, is not yet finished. There remain the problems of Krajina, Kosovo and Bosnia. We understand that Lord Carrington has given himself about six months to establish a peace settlement. Ultimately, the United Nations will play the key role, but it may, in this regional conflict as in others, choose to sub-contract the effective work to tried organisations that can be more effective on the spot. In Europe, for example, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there is a possibility of many similar challenges.
All that we can do now is set out the broad principles on which the international community should meet the problems within Yugoslavia, which may be replicated elsewhere in what is now called the "wild east of Europe". Those principles include, first, the principle that frontiers—even those said to be artificial—should be changed only with consent and not as a result of military conflict; and, secondly, the establishment and guarantee of ethnic minority rights. If Serbia concerns itself with the fortunes of the Serbian minorities in Croatia and comes with clean hands in respect of its position in Kosovo, its case will be mightily strengthened.
§ Mr. Steve Norris (Epping Forest)
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned Kosovo, because I am mindful of the fact that 90 per cent. of those who live there are ethnic Albanians. Incidentally, they also form a substantial minority in Macedonia and they cannot be overlooked.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the saddest reflections of the present conflict in Yugoslavia is that only when fighting has broken out have perfectly legitimate claims to the concept of nationhod been taken seriously? Croatia and Slovenia have now disappeared from the headlines to be replaced by Bosnia because of the actuality of the conflict there. Does he agree that it would be a tragedy if any solution were to overlook the wholly legitimate claims of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo who, so far, have resisted violence but who are being offered, in practice, no other option?
§ Mr. Anderson
Is the hon. Gentleman arguing that Kosovo should not be independent but that the human rights of those who live there must be guaranteed? If that is his view, I share it.
§ Mr. Norris
I do not wish to make a speech now in the middle of the hon. Gentleman's speech. I would not take a view on the independence of Kosovo, but the recognition of human rights there would be a welcome first step.
§ Mr. Anderson
Lessons to be learned by the international community are, first, to try to anticipate such problems and anticipate realities and, secondly, to base policy wholly on guaranteeing human rights, even if those are behind artificial frontiers.
However it is defined, there is a Europe out there which is unstable, needs to be made more stable and which will impact on us, for good or ill. The dangers of instability in our common European home are clear—refugees, the nuclear question and poverty. The main leverage for us in Europe and the European Community will be economic but the questions, the crises and the tragedies such as Yugoslavia demand a creative and generous response, which is in our long-term interest.
The future of Yugoslavia and further east is our future. As the old Europe—the Europe of Versailles and Yalta—unravels, we must painstakingly mould institutions in the light of experience to promote long-term stability. In that context, Yugoslavia is a test case, and we must not fail.
§ 5.4 pm
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
The admirable speech of the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) was interrupted by questions about the ethnic composition of Macedonia and whether it is Bulgarian, Greek or Albanian. We should always bear in mind the words of Saint Paul, who said in one of his epistles:Come over into Macedonia and help us; for the brethren are sore oppressed.They are still oppressed.
In March 1950, 42 years ago, I ventured to make my maiden speech in the House in a debate on foreign affairs largely angled on eastern Europe and Yugoslavia. It was the most painful ordeal that I have ever been through, and 1 had been through some in the war. Mr. Ernest Bevin opened the debate and Anthony Eden replied. There was a full House, not because hon. Members wanted to hear my speech, but because, in those days when Members did not have a room, there was nowhere else to sit. It was an alarming experience. I was told that I must not speak for more than 20 minutes in a maiden speech and I wonder what you, Mr. Speaker, would feel about that nowadays.
Yugoslavia was one of the countries that became involved in the spread of the Soviet empire. I thank God that I have lived long enough to see that nightmare removed. Naturally, there are painful consequences now that daylight has returned to eastern Europe. But it is a rebirth; and birth, like death, is a gory business. We must not let our anxiety and horror at some contemporary events obscure our understanding of the fact that what is going on is better than what was happening before.
The Yugoslavs did not have the worst of it. By playing east against west, they managed to maintain some national independence and, although they had an appalling economic socialist regime, they managed, through tourism and exporting labour, to let some air into their lungs. 470 When the Soviet empire collapsed and united Germany rose to the fore, the Slovenes and Croats naturally saw their chance of escape from the domination of Belgrade and for a return to the Mitteleuropa to which they had always previously belonged.
Germany dominates the scene today and Austria is once again a part of Germany. It is not an official anschluss, but the strength of Germany is once again not very different from what it was at the beginning of 1938. German influence is spreading to all the countries that were once under the Prussian empire and under the Hapsburg empire—Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and now Croatia and Slovenia.
I do not suggest that there is a deliberate imperialist policy directed from Bonn. It is a much more natural, spontaneous development. Germany is a dynamic economy and German business men are keen to exploit the opportunities open to them in the countries to the east, particularly the countries where they feel culturally al home, where German is widely spoken. When the German Government jumped the gun and said that they would recognise Croatia and Slovenia whether we did or not, it was largely because of pressures exercised by German business and the German Churches on the German Government. The flag follows trade. However, it was a bad day for Europe when that happened. After all, the ink was hardly dry on the Maastricht agreement. We had all been talking about the importance of a European foreign policy, and they were jumping the gun. In so doing, they pulled the rug from under Lord Carrington's efforts.
We now have the Bosnian situation. The intervention of the United Nations is beginning to build up and the European Community committee is looking into the problem. Where does that German drive stop? I do not know the extent of the lebensraum that Germany quite naturally—I am not talking about the Bonn Government—will seek. It is interesting that Mr. Genscher, who was so keen to recognise Croatia and Slovenia, hesitates about Bosnia. Perhaps he believes that it has reached the fault line between the Hapsburg and Byzantine-Ottoman world to which the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) referred.
I would like to say a word about the Serbs. I am all against people making hobbies of Balkan countries. This has bedevilled our studies of them both before and after the first world war. The Serbs are a remarkable nation. Their resistance to the Turks in the 19th century was extraordinary. Their conduct in world war one can only be described as heroic, when one considers the way that they stood up and defeated the Austrian empire over nearly two years. In the second world war, their people rose like one man to throw out the Government who were prepared to make them satellites of Hitler. Much as they fought each other, their resistance movements were the most remarkable in Europe. When Tito broke with the Cominform in 1948, he had the support of the great mass of his people.
We must bear it in mind that this is a formidable country with formidable people, and the decisions that we must take could put us on the wrong side of them. We may have to make such decisions.
Should we recognise Bosnia as an independent country? As the hon. Member for Swansea, East said, it has conformed to all the Badinter principles, so I do not see how we can avoid doing so. If we do, we may well find ourselves with a Serbian and Croatian intervention. What 471 should we do then? How far should we increase the United Nations force? It is salutary to remember that Hitler needed nine divisions of troops to keep the roads open during the war.
Another factor touched on by my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) was that there are 2 million Muslims in Bosnia, 2 million Muslims in Kosovo, about 3 million Muslims in Albania, nearly 1 million in Macedonia and half a million in Bulgaria. I do not want to suggest that we are facing an Islamic crisis in the heart of Europe. There is talk about Saudi and Libyan money coming in. I do not believe that there is a crisis, but we should bear it in mind that the Islamic population is not just a relic of the Ottoman empire, but may develop a dynamo of its own.
The link between Bosnia and the Kosovo-Albanian world is the Sahjak of Novipazar. In our somewhat historically illiterate world, we forget that the Sahjak of Novipazar occupied acres of dispatches before world war one. It is a narrow belt of country that links Bosnia to the Albanian Muslim population. I went there many years ago, and in my experience the inhabitants of the Sahjak are Albanian on Monday, Serbian on Tuesday, Christian on Wednesday, Muslim on Thursday, and at the weekend I am not sure what they are. I do not think that they have changed very much.
We must remember that another power is rising: Turkey. Turkish diplomacy is active, not only in the Caucasus and central Asia, but in the Balkans. They recognise Macedonia and Bosnia as independent countries. That does not pose a threat to the gates of Vienna, but if the Turks succeed in doing a deal with their Kurdish minorities to give them access to the oil of Mosul—and I hope they will—they could become quite a strong economic power with the capability of joining the European Community. I was glad that the Government and the Labour party put out the red carpet for Mr. Masud Barzavi when he was here. He may prove a formidable factor.
What is the British interest? Britain has no great economic stake in Yugoslavia, although before the war we had some important mines there. However, we have a considerable political stake. We fought on that country's side at the Salonica front in world war one and contributed to the resistance movements of Tito and Mikhailovic. I do not want to go into details about whether we were right or wrong; the matter has been explored ad nauseam on television. But we were the only people who helped that country. When it broke with the Cominform, we were the first—led by Mr. Attlee with the full support of the Conservative party—to back it up and ensure that it maintained its independence.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
I am listening with fascination, as I have done on many occasions for the past 30 years. From the right hon. Gentleman's experience, would he say that to commit troops, albeit with United Nations berets, into that mire, would beg the question: in what circumstances could those troops ever be withdrawn?
§ Mr. Amery
I thought that I went rather further than that when I recalled that Hitler needed nine divisions to keep the roads open. I am not sure what we are embarking on, but we should bear that point in mind.
472 We do not have a great economic stake in the matter, and we have some political credit. But we are concerned with the balance of power within the European Community. Before the European Community existed, we were concerned with the balance of power in Europe, which was not a community. Now we have to concentrate on the balance of power within Europe. Here our first priority is to restore our relations with France.
From de Gaulle's time onwards, the French have had the idea that Germany is the horse, and they can be the jockey and ride it. The horse has turned into an elephant, and the mahoud who sits on top has nothing like the control of a jockey. Equally, the idea that one can tie down Germany with treaties is as absurd as the Lilliputians' belief that they could tie down Gulliver.
Between the wars, France was the patron of Eastern Europe. Those considerable men—now, alas, forgotten —Benes, Titulescu, and King Alexander all looked to France for support. When France fell, all that they stood for was shattered.
I remember going to a small peasant holding in central Serbia just after the fall of France. I was shown round by an elderly peasant who had one pig. He told me that he called the pig Churchill. I was somewhat offended and asked him why he called it Churchill. He said, "Winter is coming and this is my last hope of eating my way through the winter."
Together, Britain and France, with the help of Turkey, could build up a Balkan community—I shall not call it a Balkan federation—which could look towards association with the European Community to which we belong. That association would be based not only on democracy, but on giving help to the agricultural community which still predominates in all the Balkan countries.
Hon. Members may not always have seen me as a peasant, but I have been an honorary member of the Peasant International since 1940, because, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, I was in a position to found the peasant parties of Serbia. Bulgaria and Romania to participate in resistance against the Germans.
It has often been assumed that the Bulgarians are not really part of the progressive element in the Balkans. Perhaps the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) will think differently—after all, there was a great Liberal penchant for the Bulgarians—but I remember clearly that the peasant parties before the war and the communists during the war wanted Bulgaria and Serbia to come together. Dimitrov and Tito wanted that: only Stalin stopped it. Perhaps there is work to be done there.
There is certainly a task for us—for Britain, working with France and Turkey, to try to build an association of the countries that lie east of the fault line—if not Mitteleuropa then what we have always called the Balkans. I hope that it will be our Government, but whichever Government take the chair of the European Community next July, I hope that they will make this one of their first priorities.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)
I am glad to have the chance to follow the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). I am sure that the whole House listened with great care and attention to what he said. We have heard him speak often, but even when we do not 473 accept his wisdom it is worth listening to. I should like to disagree with parts and agree with other parts of his speech. The whole House will have been fascinated to hear the right hon. Gentleman; no one speaks with greater experience on these and allied matters—which makes it all the more extraordinary when he appears to get them wrong.
The right hon. Gentleman portrayed developments in the Balkans as largely resulting from German policy—a new drang nach osten. German policy is not as formidable as all that, and it does not account for the origin of the difficulties in the Balkans and in Yugoslavia. It is quite possible that the German Government have been trying to determine how best to serve their own interests, but several other Governments have been known to try to do that when they can.
The right hon. Member for Pavilion spoke of British interests, but I believe that he was wrong about the origin of these affairs. While these developments were taking shape, the German Government came along with certain proposals, some right and some wrong—but they do not explain the origins of this business either.
I do not believe, either, that the Yugoslav problem represents a recrudescence or revival of what has happened in the area before. Most of the Balkan countries before the second and the first world wars were rebelling against foreign imperialism, against outside Governments that tried to impose their will on them. The Austrian Government was the most hated of all; Turkey was another. The people of the Balkans sometimes combined against them.
On top of all the human tragedies taking place in the area we must number the tragedy of the fact that Croats and Serbs have begun fighting each other at all. It is not as if they have often fought before or have just been waiting for a chance to start fighting each other. At times they combined to resist Austrian and then German imperialism, not to mention Turkish imperialism. Sometimes they united successfully to that end.
Another reason why I question the right hon. Gentleman's advice in respect of British interests lies in his recommendation that we back the Turks—they look strong, so perhaps we should support them. The Turks have a great deal to answer for in their part of the world. They have been among the worst oppressors for many years. Without wanting to offend the Tory instincts of the right hon. Member for Pavilion, I recall that, when Gladstone and the Liberal party came out against some of the Turkish horrors, they did not receive the support of the Tory party in those far-off times. I believe that it would be short-sighted to look to Turkey as an ally.
Turkey's behaviour towards the Kurds, towards the Greeks and over Cyprus militates against our picking on Turkey as an ally that we want to fold to our bosom merely because of the power that it may be able to exercise in years to come. It would be wiser of the British Government to understand how dangerous are some of the adventurist policies of the Turkish Government. They seized half of Cyprus in an act of aggression; they have committed many other acts of aggression and some horrific crimes against the Kurds. Yet the Turkish Government have not had to face an appropriate response from western countries, which have not denounced them because of our supposed interests in not quarrelling with them too openly.
For all these reasons, I do not think the right hon. Gentleman's recipe for what we should do in these 474 circumstances well advised, in the interests of the world or of this country. The predominant origin of these terrible events in Yugoslavia, the event which primarily, if not solely, led to the destruction of the Yugoslav state, was the letting loose of the federal army. The right hon. Member for Pavilion mentioned the successes of the Yugoslav state and how it successfully resisted the Stalinist empire. I agree that this country gave the Yugoslavs valuable support at that time. Had we not done so, perhaps they would not have made such a successful stand. Nevertheless, it was important for the Balkans and for the rest of the world.
I do not want to go over atrocities committed both ways before, during or after the war. No one can deny that terrible atrocities were committed on both sides, often encouraged by the fascist powers occupying the countries concerned. Still, I believe that the immediate and overpowering cause of recent wretched events was the way in which the federal army was let loose. Either it was an army out of the control of the Belgrade authorities—that would be serious enough—or, if they still controlled it, what ensued was even more shameful and shocking.
This, at any event, is the real reason for the spread of hatred and the revival of similar feelings. It is why they have gone so far that the state cannot be put back together again. Slovenia is an illustration of that. I know that it does not contain so much ethnic variety as the other states, but when, after trying to seize it, the federal army was stopped and withdrew, the question of Slovenia was satisfactorily and decently settled.
That did not happen in Croatia, because the federal army was behaving differently there. It was rampaging through the country, exhibiting wanton barbarism. There were no Serbian minorities who had to be rescued from along the Croatian coast, and in so far as there were pockets of Serbians dwelling there, they were better treated than anyone else during these events. The Croats there understand that, and we must ensure that they do. There are no Serbian minorities in Dubrovnik. That city attracted the spectacular attention of the world because of its beauty, but it has more important features.
The federal army rampaged up the coast and used its might in a way that it thought would enable it to impose itself by widespread intimidation not only there but throughout the country, including Bosnia. It thought that it would be able to do what it wanted. The army is almost 95 per cent. Serbian, and the percentage is more than that when the officers are included. Their doctrines had taught them that military power was all that would count in the end, if they used it with sufficient force and venom. Some member, of the army had practised that in Kosovo. The army thought that, if it did that, it would carry the day.
That did not happen, because many people, some armed and some unarmed, were prepared to die in Croatia and elsewhere and they resisted. That is a much clearer account of what happened and the causes than the deeper historical causes about which the right hon. Member for Pavilion spoke, or any question of the German Government thinking that they could extract advantage from the place. Perhaps the German Government like to see their own interests advanced, but the idea that that was predominant was wrong. What I have described happened, and at that stage the EC countries and the United Nations had to decide what measures to take.
I shall later speak about the conclusion of the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) with which 1 strongly agree. The question of recognition for Croatia had to be 475 settled. It would have been impossible to continue for much longer refusing the Croatian demand. It might have been better if recognition had been given earlier, and in that sense the German Government's recommendation to the European countries had some sense. Those who deny that or question it should look at the votes cast by people in other parts of the country.
I hope that the Macedonians will not exploit their position and cause trouble with the Greeks. They would be foolish to do that, but they had a right to vote for what they did, and if it had not been for the conduct of the federal army and those in Belgrade who backed it, I do not think that Macedonia would necessarily have voted in that way. The Bosnian vote might not have gone the same way three, four or six months ago. However, having had an illustration of the way in which the Serbian-controlled, or uncontrolled forces, operated throughout the area, the Bosnians were bound to vote in that way, and who are we to deny them the right to do so? We cannot say, "You should have waited a hit longer and seen more of your people slaughtered under the methods employed by the federal army."
I hope that every hon. Member knows what happened in Dubrovnik, for example. What the federal army tried to do was one of the worst acts of that nature that has occurred since the bombing of Guernica, not only because of the beauty of the place but because of the people. The federal army tried to intimidate the whole population of Dubrovnik, and thought that if it kept up the bombardment and the threats, the population would have to clear out and the army could go in. If that had happened, most of Dubrovnik and many of the surrounding areas would have been occupied by Serbians and Serbian forces. But the people resisted and said, "We would rather die in our homes than see that happen."
The same kind of resistance was offered in Macedonia and is now developing in Bosnia. It will not be overriden. It has been decided that Yugoslavia cannot be held together and that these separate countries or states, whatever they may be called, must have the right to make the choice by the ballot box. Of course that is extremely difficult where there are such conglomerations of people—nobody can deny that.
I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who suggested in an intervention that it was wrong for British troops as part of the United Nations force to be sent into such a dangerous situation. Even before the decision was taken, I was in favour of it, and without it the killing would have gone on. If that had happened, the possibility of its uncontrolled spread not only in the Balkans but beyond would have been incalculable.
This action is one of the primary functions of the United Nations. I was present as a reporter in 1945 at the establishment of the United Nations in San Francisco. Conflicts similar to these led people to say that we must have an international authority with the power and the capacity to send in troops speedily and the authority to settle disputes. To some of us, that was almost the first lesson to be learned from the failures between 1918 and 1945. We wanted a real United Nations with the power to act strongly and the backing of a Security Council to carry through what it wanted to do. I know that there are 476 problems, but if the United Nations had refrained from acting, it would have been a disaster for Yugoslavia and for the remnants of that country, and an even greater disaster for the world at large.
I hope that the Government will remedy some of their past actions. It was not a glorious hour in the history of the British Foreign Office, because, for most of the time when the federal army was engaging in the rampaging acts that I have described and about which the whole world now knows, when Dubrovnik was starving and Cavat was being conquered and the whole coastline was being ravaged, the British Government should have done much more to get food to Dubrovnik. They gave support to the Red Cross, which is natural, but they could have done much more.
Some other countries, such as Italy and France, did more than Britain. It may be said that those countries acted in their own interests. Perhaps they did, but it was an intelligent thing to do. We held back at critical moments. I hope there will be no more such holding back because for the solution to this problem and for the future of the world, we must hope that this United Nations force will have the necessary backing for as long as is necessary to try to establish real peace in the area.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)
May I ask for a little voluntary restraint in the length of speeches? I am anxious to call all those who wish to speak, and there is much interest in the debate.
§ Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)
It is always a great pleasure to be able to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). We came into politics together, and we have been on many platforms advocating the same causes. It is always stimulating to listen to the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), and I did so with great interest. The entire House too is deeply in debt to my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) and the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs for a masterly survey of one of the most intractable problems of our time. He introduced us in his speech to consideration of a most worrying problem. His Committee has performed a real service.
The speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford rightly focused on the situation in Croatia. The entire region, however, is on the edge of a catastrophe. In Hungary, to the north, there has been rapid economic progress since the throwing off of the shackles of communism, but there is deep anxiety about the safety of the Hungarian community in Vojvodina. Similarly, there is great anxiety about the considerable Hungarian population next door in Transylvania. I was in Budapest last summer. One of the most touching experiences that I had was when His Holiness the Pope visited the city. Many Transylvanian Catholics tried to cross into Hungary. When some of these people were told that I was British, they came to me weeping and pleading in broken English, "Help us." They did so because their own situation is dire.
There is concern in Greece too about the threat of Macedonian expansion. Greece is a civilised member of the European Community. There is also deep anxiety about the ill treatment of the Greek minority in northern 477 Epirus in southern Albania. As I have said, we are dealing with an entire region and not only with the situation in Croatia, bad enough though it is.
There is every reason for anxiety when we come to consider the Serbian minority in Croatia. My right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion and I are old enough to remember the war years. Incidentally, during the two world wars, the Serbs were our gallant allies from the beginning. I have never forgotten the resistance of Yugoslavia and Greece during the second world war. I remember an occasion when, in uniform but on leave, I was at a meeting in London on the very day that Yugoslavia declared war on Nazi Germany. It was a meeting of the Conservative central council addressed by Prime Minister Churchill. I remember him beginning dramatically, "Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, this morning Yugoslavia found her soul."
There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the resistance of the Yugoslavs and then of the Greeks, followed by the last battles on Crete, delayed the German invasion of Russia by six weeks. As we know, the Nazis never captured Moscow, and that was one of the most decisive chapters in the war; it made a major contribution to the ultimate defeat of the Nazis. We therefore cannot separate ourselves from the brave but gravely troubled nations of which we are talking.
We cannot be unsympathetic to the Serbs. We must remember that Croats in Nazi uniform massacred vast numbers of Serbs. The memory of that is still vivid in Serbian minds. We are dealing with an explosive situation.
Last year I took the chair here at a remarkable meeting organised by a movement called Democratic Encounters. Many Yugoslav residents here were present and many Members of both Houses. I remember calling the first speaker and introducing him as an economist who worked in Belgrade. He was a Macedonian. I called the second speaker, who was a lady teacher of modern languages in Ljubljana university. She was a Slovene. The third speaker was a Croat and the fourth was a Serb. They all spoke from the vantage of their own community and in their part of Yugoslavia, but every one of them said the same thing. They were unanimous that there was no future for their country unless there was recognition of the democratic rights of minorities wherever they lived.
It does not matter whether Yugoslavia is a single nation or whether it is, as in reality, a group of different nations but all linked by history and by blood. The only way forward is for all to recognise that such differences exist. There can be a future for them only if the supremacy of human rights is recognised.
For that reason, I strongly welcome the arrival of the United Nations peace-keeping force. There is no point in saying now that members of that force may have to be there for ever; I am not a pessimist when it comes to human affairs. Who would have thought, two or three years ago, that communism would collapse in the Soviet Union, of all places, and in eastern Europe? Who would have thought that Mr. Gorbachev would go to Honecker at the time of the riots in East German cities and warn, "You will not use force against the rioters, and if you do you cannot count on the support of Soviet troops"?
That message spread like wildfire through eastern Europe. The Poles had been the leaders, and followed the events that took place in Berlin, in Czechoslovakia and then in Hungary. But no shots were fired. No blood was spilt. Why? A British journalist who was present at the 478 crucial events, whether in Prague, Budapest or Berlin, wrote, "No Bastilles were stormed, no guillotines were erected and lamp posts were used except for lighting the streets." Why did that happen? It was the result of Mr. Gorbachev's warning to Honecker.
Those who despaired and thought that they would never see the end of communism and its associated brutality in eastern Europe must not despair when examining the situation in Yugoslavia. We must keep our heads. It is pretty clear that a United Nations presence will have to be maintained in Yugoslavia for some time to come. In the meantime, there are forces of diplomacy and good will in Europe. The French used to have great influence in the Balkans. Russia still has a great interest in the region. Is it beyond the wit of western leaders now to find ways and means of persuading the troubled peoples of the Balkans to live and work peacefully together? I think not.
§ Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)
I agree very much with the remarks of the Father of the House about the problems of the Hungarians in Vojvodina and Romania. I take the opportunity to salute the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), who is no longer in his place. I have often had the opportunity to take up his remarks in foreign affairs debates. We shall miss his pugnacious, assertive and informed contributions.
We must remember that Yugoslavia was an artificial creation of the great powers after the first world war. It was sustained after the second world war by the dictatorship, effective but cunning as it was, of Marshal Tito. When the collapse of communism came, it was widely predicted that there would be trouble in Yugoslavia. It was against that background that on 22 May 1991 I asked whetherthe British Government would be willing to argue in the European Community in favour of the EC's taking on a role of mediation and perhaps even providing a peace-keeping force.The Minister—who is present now—replied:I do not think that the European Community should play such a role."—[Official Report, 22 May 1991; Vol. 191, c. 919]I repeated my arguments at greater length in an Adjournment debate on 22 July.
Things have changed, but 1 feel that it should be put on record—I know that this is not a majority view in the House—that, in my view, the Government's approach to what had happened in Yugoslavia, right up to the early part of this year, was misguided: indeed, it could be described as wrong. In the end, as has already been said, we were dragged protesting into recognising Slovenia and Croatia by the Germans—not, I think, for want of good advice, but because of bad judgment.
Let me be fair to the Government: that was the general British view. It was held by the press, by the academic foreign affairs establishment—the Chatham house people—and by many members of the Labour party; although, clearly, it was not held by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), who has made such an effective speech this evening.
After the destruction of Vukovar—which we should never forget—I set out my arguments in a letter to The Times on 3 December. I shall not read out that letter, but I shall summarise it. I said that what took place was not a civil war, as has been suggested; it was a war between Serbia and Croatia. Part of the "civil war" argument, 479 advanced at the time by both the European Community and the United States, was the proposition that we all had an interest in keeping Yugoslavia together. I do not agree with that either.
It was also said that we must be even-handed. As a number of hon. Members have pointed out, the Serbs had guns, tanks, aircraft—the Croatians had no aircraft—and armed ships. It was said that recognition would inflame the Serbians and make matters worse.
By chance, on the very day on which my letter was published in The Times, an article by the Foreign Secretary was published in the same paper. It was entitled "Averting a Balkan tragedy". The Foreign Secretary wrote:The recognition of Croatia, Slovenia and perhaps other republics may not be far off. But the advantages need careful calculation … If we recognise the republics too soon, we risk detonating the fragile peace in Macedonia and Bosnia".A number of hon. Members have mentioned that, too. It was widely argued that recognition would lead to an all-out assault on Croatia by the Serbians, involving all the horrors that correspondents such as John Sweeney of The Observer pictured so vividly.
When the Germans pushed us into it—hon. Members who made that suggestion were right—they were accused of flexing their muscles post-Maastricht and of pushing people around. Often, that accusation was made by the very same people who were against the integration of the Germans in the Community decision-making process in regard to foreign affairs and other political matters. In the end, what had been done did not have that effect: hon. Members should remember that. In fact, it provided the basis for a cease fire and a settlement.
It was necessary to demonstrate to the Serbs that they could not win a war of conquest. At the time, I was constantly sending letters to the Foreign Secretary, suggesting an air blockade, a naval blockade or some similar action to prevent the attacks, made from a distance, that Split and Dubrovnik—where, as has been said, there were no Serbs—had to suffer. The hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Norris) mentioned Kosovo; it was not mentioned by the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell).
Croatia's population is 12 per cent. Serbian, and in Kosovo the proportion is 13.8 per cent. There is not much difference between those two figures, but in Kosovo, the Albanians, who represent an absolute majority, have no rights at all. It was, I suppose, not unreasonable to fear the possibilities. I am not attacking the Serbs per se; that would not be fair. I am not saying that all the Serbs supported Milosevic, or the old nomenklatura that still dominated the army. I do say, however, that we should have been much more active.
I disagreed with the right hon. Member for Guildford, who used an odd expression: he spoke of "self-determination run riot". He also repeated the canard—as I judge it to be—that the recognition of Slovenia and Croatia made matters worse. It did not; in any event, I consider self-determination to be an entitlement, guaranteed by the United Nations. In that context, recognition was right and necessary.
§ Mr. Norris
I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument with interest. In considering the desirability or otherwise of recognition of Croatia and Slovenia, does he recognise that one of the concerns expressed by Kosovans 480 whom I saw, in Pristina and elsewhere, in December relates to the pressure imposed on Milosevic at least to try to rescue something of the dream of a greater Serbia that he has sold to the Serbian people, and thus to increase still further the pressure on the neck of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and Hungarians in Vojvodina? That might prove very dangerous for those poor, oppressed peoples, and they see it as the disadvantage of the premature recognition of Croatia and Slovenia.
§ Sir Russell Johnston
I agree with the first part of what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I do not think that the second part follows. I entirely agree with him about the situation in Kosovo. The desperate situation in which Albania now finds itself is the main reason why there has not been a major problem: The Albanians cannot do anything about it.
Then there is the matter of the Ustashe, and the suggestion that the Croatians were all fundamentally fascists. That is the other argument that is trundled out quite regularly. What the Ustashe did in the last war was awful—dreadful; there is no argument about that. But it is wrong to imply that the present Croatian Government had any intentions of that kind.
I am not defending President Tudjman, who is not of my political persuasion—my contact in Croatia was with liberal democrats—but his Administration were anxious to impress on me their wish for a fair and open system that would protect the human rights of all people. I met many of the members of that Administration in December, when I visited Zagreb—including the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Separovic—and that was the view that they expressed. I do not deny that there was fear among the Serbs, but that fear did not justify what happened in Vukovar and Dubrovnik.
This is my argument. Given the failure of Lord Carrington's efforts-I am sure that we all salute them —to achieve peace, the European Community, acting perhaps through the United Nations, should have been prepared to do something about the carnage that was being wrought by the Serbian army. On 4 December, in the Western European Union, I quoted from The Independent—which, in its turn, had quoted from a report by EC monitors. I do not think that it was ever published, apart from the press; I have never seen a copy.
The Independent stated:EC monitors have no doubt the Serbs bear greater responsibility".The European Community faced four choices, said the report:to continue the monitors' mission, though it is increasingly ineffective; to withdraw … to generate a new UN or European initiative; or to deter the Yugoslav Army by force. Amplifying this last point the report says: 'the warship that fires on a defenceless city from a safe distance out to sea … must be put in a situation where it knows it can do so at the cost of being promptly sent to the bottom …'".I said that it wasthat kind of direct and blunt talking and the presentation of choicesthat we needed.
I warmly recommend to the House the first-class editorial in today's Financial Times, which sets out a positive way forward:Independence for Bosnia will be meaningless unless the territorial integrity of the republic can be guaranteed. Therefore the EC, if it goes ahead with recognition, must serve notice that it will not countenance claims on Bosnian territory".481 with all that that means.
I shall sum up my position. First, we should not belittle or mock self-determination. Secondly, we should face the fact that peacekeeping will be a necessary role in which the European Community will have to be increasingly involved. Thirdly, we must recognise Bosnia and Macedonia, and concentrate on ensuring human rights there.
We must stop talking about the British interest and the German interest. We must talk about the human rights interest, instead of those old-fashioned issues. The Muslim issue must not be over-dramatised, either. On Tuesday night in Vienna, I had dinner with the Albanian ambassador—I had never met an Albanian before. He was a most interesting, intelligent and constructive man, who had been taking part in the negotiations in Vienna for 18 months, and he stressed strongly the fact that the idea that Iranian-style fundamentalism was operating in Albania was complete and utter nonsense. The right hon. Member for Pavilion also said that.
My last point is that territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs are dead doctrines. Democracy is about letting people decide and defending their right to do so, provided that they do not impose their decision on others. It is a sad fact that hatred lasts a long time, so the United Nations may have to stay a long time. But what is the alternative? The alternative would be to do
§ 6.1 pm
§ Mr. Michael Mates (East Hampshire)
It is all too rare in this place that in a short debate such as this there are so many distinguished contributions from some of the giants of the House. I for one am privileged to have been able to hear them, and now to be able to take part in the debate. Without in any way wishing to be sycophantic, I can only say that the next Parliament will be greatly the poorer because the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) and my right hon. Friends the Members for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) and for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) will not be here still to give us the huge amount of advice that we have had from them over the years.
Almost for the first time, I can tell the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent that I agreed with almost everything he said. He and I have often debated such matters without often being in total agreement, but I am in complete agreement with what he has said today.
I shall intervene only briefly in the debate on the narrow point of the British military contribution to the United Nations force. Over the past few weeks, especially following the Secretary-General's recommendation to the Security Council, it has been widely reported that we shall make a substantial contribution of service personnel to the proposed United Nations force to be deployed in Yugoslavia. However, nothing has been said to the House on the subject, or to the Select Committee on Defence, which has a special interest in such matters.
The Select Committee returned a couple of weeks ago from a two-day visit to the British forces in Germany—during which time, coincidentally, we met our sister committee, the defence committee of the Bundestag. We had an interesting debate on the matter, and mentioned the rather strange fact that, although the Germans were the people forcing the pace of European action, now that action is to be taken they will tell us that they are the only ones who are unable to play any part in the consequences 482 of what they so strongly advocated. Germany's position on the deployment of troops outside her borders is an interesting paradox which we all hope will be resolved sooner or later.
When we returned, we asked the Ministry of Defence for some sort of briefing, or some information about the United Kingdom component of the proposed force. We suggested either a formal or an informal appearance of a Minister or senior official at our meeting at the end of February so that we could get some idea of what was being proposed. The Committee had hoped thereby to be able to assist the House in today's debate by making available some sort of brief document.
Alas, Ministers judged thatthere is very little at this stage on which the Committee could usefully be briefed, either in private or open session".We were told that the Government were likely to want to report to the House once agreement had been reached with the United Nations, but since then there has been silence—although, according to a written answer given last Friday, 28 February, to the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) the Ministry was still discussing what form the United Kingdom contribution might take.
We understand, again from the press, that there are anxieties about the costs of the force, and who is to meet them. That is right. I am sure that such matters should be settled first. Our recent experience in the Gulf has no doubt shown us, as well as our American and French allies, and the military planners, how much time, trouble and money can be saved by sensible use of existing civilian infrastructure on such occasions, and the advantages to be gained if one can obtain host nation support.
Yugoslavia is well endowed with much that would be useful to a force, so I have no quarrel with the idea of taking time to get things right. However, I do not find it so understandable that the House has been told so little about the assets that we have proposed to make available, and the conditions under which British troops will be expected to serve. To put the matter in context, a number of British troops are currently deployed under United Nations auspices, notably the 800-strong United Kingdom contingent with the United Nations forces in Cyprus, which the Select Committee last visited in January 1989, and which has been there for almost 30 years. There are also contingents with the multinational force and observers in Sinai, with the observer force in the western Sahara.
Shortly, I gather, there will be a contingent in Cambodia, as part of the United Nations effort there. We have recently contributed to mine clearance training in Pakistan and to the United Nations transition assistance group in Namibia. We provide logistic support— that phrase may understate how crucial the support is—for the United Nations forces in Lebanon and on the Golan heights, and for the United Nations forces in Cyprus as a whole. That is in addition, of course, to the considerable Royal Marine contribution to the relief and protection of the Kurds in the wake of the Gulf war.
Those peacekeeping tasks, which primarily, although not exclusively, fall on the Army, are an important contribution which the services make on our behalf, and one which all commentators agree will increase both in total and as a proportion of other tasks in the decades ahead.
483 In its thorough and excellent report, the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs warned of the danger that the United Nations peacekeeping force would be unable to retire from the area once it was established, and that Serbian areas in Croatia could becomeuncontrolled with a virtually permanent large force.It is agreed that the force will remain in Yugoslavia until a negotiated settlement is achieved. Despite the heroic efforts of my right hon. and noble Friend, Lord Carrington, that could still be a very long haul.
Those two aspects—the likelihood that the United Kingdom contribution on this occasion will be the first of several, if not the first of many, and the possibility that it will become as established a part of the United Nations peacekeeping structures as our force in Cyprus has proved to be—lead us to be especially interested both in what we are to contribute and the detailed arrangements that will be made.
In the middle of February the press carried several broadly similar articles on the likely British contribution, stating that it would consist primarily of Royal Engineers, Royal Signallers and the Royal Corps of Transport, but that there would be no combat infantry or armour, and that the total number of personnel would be about 1,000. The press also speculated—I suppose that it was no more than that—that senior officers had hoped to field a complete self-supporting infantry battalion group, but that commitments, especially the two additional battalions in Northern Ireland, ruled that out.
Mention was also made of the provision of several C130 Hercules aircraft, and a Royal Fleet Auxiliary escorted by HMS Arrow. Two weeks ago the Daily Express reported:British sappers and RAF transport planes will fly to Yugoslavia in the next two weeks to join the UN peacekeeping force".Have they? Was that all pure invention, or were Ministers, senior officers or officials willing to tell journalists yet unwilling to tell the House?
Assuming that that is the type of contribution envisaged, a number of questions arise which the Select Committee on Defence would usually ask Ministers in the next few weeks. However, we are in the dying days—or what might be the dying days—of a Parliament, so the Committee's functions can best be fulfilled if I now ask at least some of those questions in the hope that answers might be forthcoming, either later this evening or in writing at an early date.
What are the command arrangements within the force below the level of force commander? What will be the rank and function of the senior United Kingdom commander, and to whom in the United Kingdom chain of command will he be responsible? On security, the Secretary-General's report suggests that the force will hire four fixed-wing aircraft and 26 helicopters. They will presumably be unarmed, so what protection will the force—especially the United Kingdom elements—have against air attack?
United Nations documents say that the normal rules for the bearing and use of arms will apply. Will Ministers say whether all our personnel will be armed for self-protection? What rotation arrangements are envisaged for personnel—the usual six months? What 484 allowances will be paid? Will any reservists be called out? What medical services will they need to have made available?
I have no doubt that the thorough planning which has occurred during the past few months will ensure that our contribution to the force is well planned and well thought out and will, as always, demonstrate to the world at large the outstanding qualities of our professional armed forces. I regret that information is so scarce and that our chances to do what we can to generate a better understanding of what is involved is so limited.
In the hope that the Minister will be able to answer some of my questions, it only remains for me, on behalf of the Select Committee on Defence, to wish any of our service men who are sent to do what will be a very difficult task the very best of good fortune.
§ Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)
I associate myself fully with the concluding remarks of the hon. Member for East Hampshire (Mr. Mates) about the contribution that British troops may make to the United Nations force in Croatia and Yugoslavia.
The Father of the House reminded us of the amazing convulsive changes that have occurred in the past few years. As we end this Parliament and face a general election, I wonder what we would have thought about a parliamentary candidate in 1987 or about an hon. Member at the beginning of 1987 if he had said that in the lifetime of this Parliament we would see the reunification of Germany, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a war in Iraq, a white president in South Africa abolishing apartheid and the prospect of 1,000 British tr000ps ending up on the Bosnian-Croatian borders to attempt to create peace and harmony in those far-off lands. I think that he might have been the victim of the men in white coats who would have carried him away. He would not have been heard with the seriousness that he deserved.
We have witnessed those very events. As a member of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, it has been my privilege to witness and to try to report on them during the past four dramatic years. On behalf of my hon. Friends, may I say what a pleasure and privilege it has been to serve on that Committee under the chairmanship of the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell).
This report was one of the hardest to prepare and to write, because we were facing issues that we did not believe that we would have to face in Europe again. That belief is shared outside among the young generation. The collapse of the old post-war order established by Yalta which created the division of power between east and west and suppressed the tremendous variety of feelings and national identities within Europe is bringing about a range of new problems with which we have not had to deal for the best part of 30 or 40 years. Members of the Committee, people in Europe and those on the international scene must consider whether there are any ways in which new political arrangements and a new order can be established—even in the wider Europe—to accommodate the problems, difficulties and potential conflicts that arise.
The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) rightly said that we must begin by realising that the sense of self-determination, national 485 consciousness and national identity is not a temporary phenomenon. It is basic and fundamental to the human condition and to society.
That point was vividly and brilliantly described in a recent essay by Isaiah Berlin called "The Bent Twig". It describes the thinking of the 18th-century German philosophers who, in some ways, were the creators of the best aspects of national consciousness and identity. He writes that one such philosopher arguedthat every human condition had its own unique shape and pattern. Its members were born in a stream of tradition which shaped their emotional and physical development…There was a central historically developing pattern that characterised the life and activity of every identifiable communityand that expressed itself in the nation state.
If we do not recognise the fact that what is now emerging had been suppressed by the universalism of communism which tried to ignore separate identities and feelings, we shall not be able to decide how best to arrange our affairs and possibly create a new order in Europe and beyond.
Talking to my children and the younger generation, I find that they are astonished that, as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, arguments are being expressed in what they thought were old-fashioned concepts. They thought that such concepts were for Africa—African nationalism is throwing off imperial domination—but they did not think that it would be part of the new European experience. Only the older generation understood what Bosnia-Herzegovina was about and what the problems were.
The Committee had to ask whether, despite the tremendous fragmentation and the fact that there were to be different expressions of freedom through national identity and the principles of self-determination, there was a better way to handle matters than we had witnessed in Yugoslavia. Unlike the Foreign Office, I do not believe that Yugoslavia is sui generis. Although Yugoslavia may be an extreme, the issues that it raises must be considered in other contexts.
When we put that question to witnesses, including the Foreign Secretary, we were understandably given a cautious and, indeed, minimalist view. The Committee's report quotes the Foreign Secretary as saying:I do not think we should have standing machinery for resolving conflict as we have just been describing because I think they are all different. I think in practice the countries concerned have to work out the way in which they are going to live together.Of course, the ideal would be internal self-determination by peaceful resolution of conflicts within the communities, but it has not happened and it may not happen. What contribution can the international community and political institutions make to assist and perhaps help to avoid conflicts of the type that we have witnessed in Yugoslavia?
I agree with hon. Members—including my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot)—who said that we have at last rediscovered the real function of the United Nations. It is now beginning to play the role that those who built and promoted it after the war meant it to play. It is a major international role, and I wholeheartedly support the commitment that we are making as part and parcel of the United Nations force. However difficult the task and whatever mire the force may go into, it could at least create some stability, but we must go further and offer other alternatives.
486 While drawing up our report, we discovered that although communities are now breaking up, although there is fragmentation and although people want to govern themselves and decide what type of institutions and political society they wish to create —whether Croatian, Slovenian or Serbian—they also want, paradoxically, to belong to something bigger. They want to belong to a bigger community of one kind or another. With that fragmentation and self-determination come requests to belong to NATO and the European Community. In a curious and interesting way, the new smaller self-governing communities that are emerging from the collapse of the Soviet domination of many of those territories will seek to belong to workable and successful organisations and communities that are bigger than themselves.
We have something to offer in two areas. First, we can offer security through association and involvement in a broader and redefined NATO. The Select Committee found that the new communities want to belong to a community that is broader than NATO—to a North Atlantic Co-operation Council. Secondly, there is no doubt that the new communities of Croatia, Slovenia and others that might follow, will want to belong to a broader and wider European Community for economic and political reasons.
The combination of the United Nations role in the peace-making context and the institutions such as the conference on security and co-operation in Europe, NATO and the European Community offers an opportunity to embrace a new order and create meaningful political relationships that may resolve some of those conflicts instead of their being resolved through the use of guns or armed conflict. That may be a cock-eyed and optimistic view, but at least the desire of those smaller communities to belong to larger communities offers an opportunity to encourage development.
We should make it a condition that, to belong to the European Community in its broader sense, to the North Atlantic Co-operation Council or to CSCE, those communities should accept a series of values, a form of behaviour and a way of resolving conflicts different from the way in which conflicts have been resolved in Yugoslavia. We should use the desire to belong to broader communities to change behaviour. Surely that is the great political value of the European Community.
Even in my political lifetime, Spain, Portugal and Greece have been governed by dictators. However, they will no longer accept dictatorship, because they realise that they cannot have a dictatorship and also belong to the broader European Community. If we can create the same meaningful relationship between the new smaller states and communities that will emerge as a result of the break-up of the Soviet Union in respect of the broader community of Europe and NATO, and at the same time, impose the condition that those communities should resolve their conflicts differently from what has happened in Yugoslavia, there is real hope for a new European order.
§ Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)
I have listened with interest and sympathy to the hon. Gentleman, and I hope that he is right. However, will he consider one awkwardness that might arise? Is there not a danger that disputes between people on a small local level might be escalated to the larger local level to which they might 487 subsequently belong if they follow the line of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands)?
§ Mr. Rowlands
I understand that, but there is a greater danger if we return to the instability of the old order when other nation states begin to play politics in and around those conflicts. It is better to consider the issue in the greater community terms that I have described. That is why I strongly support our contribution to the United Nations and its role.
I hope and believe that, in the context of Europe, we will be able to create a new European order. Yugoslavia came perhaps too soon with regard to such developments and institutions, but let us hope that we will be ready to handle such issues better in future.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg)
It might be for the convenience of the House if we were to conclude the debate at 7 pm. A number of right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak and, for that reason, I do not intend to speak for longer than 15 minutes. Therefore, I will not answer all the points that have been raised and I hope that the House will forgive me for that.
May I begin by echoing what my hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Mr. Mates) said about three very distinguished speeches by three right hon. Members who will be retiring at the end of this Parliament. Between them, they muster more than 120 years of service. We will all miss the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braille), the Father of the House, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). They have illuminated this debate and we have discovered some strange things: I did not use to believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion was a founder member of the Peasant party. I hope very much that those three right hon. Members will continue to participate in the political debate in this country—and perhaps from another place.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) on focusing on this subject and giving the House an opportunity to debate it. The issue is very grave. We are all extremely relieved that there is now a cease fire in place in what was Yugoslavia. However, we must recognise that it is very fragile and that it has been breached. Consequently, we must recognise that it could break down and that fighting could recommence in a pretty disastrous manner.
Very broadly, the United Kingdom Government, the European Community and the United Nations have a twin-track policy, the first element of which is to encourage the parties to participate in the negotiations under the chairmanship of my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Carrington. The House believes that that conference is an important contribution to the solution of the problems in what was Yugoslavia. The second track is that we strongly support the deployment of a peace keeping force. That is essential, and I very much welcome the Security Council's decision to deploy such a force.
I will try to respond to several questions which have properly been raised during the debate. First, I want to 488 refer to a very important question raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford and echoed for my hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire. They wanted to know about the level of the United Kingdom contribution to the peacekeeping force. The answer is that we have not yet reached a conclusion.
The United Nations has made it plain that it has no present need for infantry. We are considering how we can help to provide support troops in the form of a contribution by specialist troops in an area in which we have particular expertise. Exactly how we might respond will depend on further discussions with the United Nations secretariat and on the advance party which will arrive next week. There will be 20 British representatives in the advance party.
Among the issues that will have to be considered are the security arrangements for any British contingent. We will reach a conclusion after the advance party has reported. It follows that I cannot respond to the detailed questions from my hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire because the decision has not yet been taken.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford asked the very important question whether the involvement of the European Community assisted. I believe that it did, in a number of important ways. First, and perhaps most obviously, the monitors were deployed and they had an important role to play. They were very courageous and, as the House will know, a number of them died. Secondly —again, my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford picked up this point—the trade sanctions that we imposed concentrated the minds of the participants in the war.
Thirdly, and most important of all, we made it plain on many occasions that the European Community in particular and the international community in general would not accept the forcible alteration of frontiers. That fact, which was impressed upon the minds of Mr. Milosevic and Mr. Tudjman, has had a very important impact on the thinking of the leaders of those two republics.
I understand the argument of those who have suggested that our recognition of Croatia was premature. The House will know—I make no secret about it; nor did my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary—that we were very cautious about the process of recognition of Croatia, because we believed that it would remove one of the sanctions on President Tudjman. For that reason, we pressed caution upon our colleagues within the Community between August of last year and January of this year. However, by January of this year, it became plain that many states within the Community were determined to recognise Croatia. The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent suggested that the position by then had become inevitable. The right hon. Gentleman was right; it was inevitable. It was right to do it at that time, and we would have gained nothing by withholding our own recognition. On that matter I am extremely glad that the right hon. Gentleman supports the position of Her Majesty's Government.
The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) suggested that we did not make sufficient use of financial leverage that the European Community had over Croatia, Serbia and the other republics. I do not think that that is correct. We have and have had financial leverage which we have used. Perhaps I might remind you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we suspended the trade advantages that what was Yugoslavia had in its dealings with the European 489 Community. We reinstated them in so far as they related to republics which co-operated with the work of the United Nations and the European Community, and we have, of course, future relations. The House will see that we shall move more swiftly towards association agreements with regard to Slovenia than, for example, with regard to Croatia, unless it is clear that Croatia is going to respond quickly to the chapter 2 requirements in my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Carrington's draft treaty.
I now respond to a question that was advanced by the hon. Member for Swansea, East in respect of the monitors. I have already said that I believe that they have made an important and brave contribution. It is not our intention to withdraw them. It is our intention that they should stay for some time ahead—we cannot say quite how long—and that they should operate in those areas where the United Nations peacekeeping force is not operating.
A number of right hon. and hon. Members have referred to the Kosovo. Again, that matter was raised by the hon. Member for Swansea, East and by my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Norris). It is an extremely serious issue. As the House knows, the Albanians form a substantial majority in the Kosovo—more than 90 per cent. I agree with what right hon. and hon. Members have said to the effect that the political and human rights of Albanians in the Kosovo are of great importance and must be addressed within the context of the peace conference.
I can assure the House that that is the formal view of Her Majesty's Government, and I know it to be the view of my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Carrington. I know, too, that it is the collective view of Ministers within the Community.
§ Mr. Hogg
I would rather not give way, as I shall be very strict with myself, and I shall sit down, almost regardless, at the end of 15 minutes.
Bosnia was referred to by hon. Members, most notably by my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion. He asked rhetorically whether we recognised Bosnia. That is an extraordinarily difficult question, and the argument is properly balanced. My right hon. Friend summarised the arguments with clarity and fairness. On the one hand, if we recognise Bosnia, there will be the substantial risk that the Serbs will fight. On the other hand, if we do not recognise Bosnia, we will, in a sense, neglect the fact that we encouraged them to hold a referendum to determine their view, and what would be the view of the Croats and the Muslims who clearly want independence and have so declared that wish by a substantial majority? It will be extraordinarily difficult to withhold recognition for any extended period. We must focus on questions that are addressed to keeping the peace in that part of what was Yugoslavia.
As I have been talking about Bosnia, it might be helpful if I say something about Macedonia, which has also been mentioned by right hon. and hon. Members. Again, we need to proceed cautiously, but we must bear in mind the views of the Badinter report. In effect, Mr. Badinter reported that there was no good reason why Macedonia should not be recognised. The Greeks are very concerned about that recognition. My right hon. Friend the Member 490 for Castle Point urged those considerations with great clarity and with his normal elegance, and he has a considerable point.
However, it will be very difficult to withhold recognition of Macedonia for an extended period. It is important to try to reconcile the conflicting interests of Greece on the one hand and Macedonia on the other hand. That can be done, and we need to try to do it.
Another important issue that has been raised is Serbian rights in Croatia. That point was addressed by my right hon. Friends the Members for Castle Point and for Pavilion. It is absolutely central to the matter. The rights of the Serbs in Croatia are of critical importance. My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point was right when he reminded the House of the history of the second world war. That matter plays an important part in the draft treaty prepared by my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Carrington. The House will know that chapter 2 of that draft treaty provides for autonomous status for the Serbian regions within Croatia.
It is absolutely essential that we all bend our collective efforts and wills to trying to protect the rights of minorities, and for those purposes, Serbian minorities in Croatia. That is a duty for us all. We must continue to impress upon President Tudjman the fact that, unless he agrees to do that and to comply with the requirements contained in chapter 2 of that draft treaty, he will find that relations with the European Community—and, indeed, with the rest of the world—are very much less cordial than he would otherwise wish them to be.
I have given myself a 15-minute time limit; I have nearly reached the end of it. I apologise to those right hon. and hon. Members to whom I have not been able to give a considered response. That is due not to discourtesy but to lack of time. I conclude by thanking my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford for giving us an opportunity to consider such an important issue.
§ Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)
I also congratulate the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) on the excellence of the report that was produced by his Committee. Although I agree with the sentiments that were expressed by the Minister, I must say that I am at odds with him in respect of his belief that we were correct in recognising Croatia. I believe that it was a very great error. The main motive that led the Government to recognise Croatia was the need to have the support of the Germans for what we required under the Maastricht treaty. That was an undesirable feature of a policy which, until that point, had been rightly even-handed.
When I came back from Yugoslavia last August, I reported to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). I allowed Ministers to see what was in the report. We were more or less in agreement. Indeed, I received a letter from the Minister saying that he agreed with most of what I said. I said:recognition of the independence of Slovenia and Croatia should be withheld. One might get away with recognising Slovenia, but the Serbs in Croatia would regard this as a sell-out as far as they are concerned and full-scale civil war would be almost inevitable.I regret that we gave way to the Germans. I have a lot of time for Mr. Genscher. He has been forthright and wise 491 in his foreign policy towards the Soviet Union in the period of its break-up. But I remind the Minister that I tabled a question on 20 FebruaryTo ask the Secretary of State upon what principles he will base his policy towards Bosnia-Herzegovina after its proposed referendum on 28th February.In part of his reply, referring to the guidelines adopted by EC Ministers in December, the Under-Secretary said that the state would have toguarantee the rights of minorities; respect the inviolability of frontiers except by peaceful agreement".—[Official Report, 20 February 1992; Vol. 204, c. 227.]None of us would disagree with that, but none of those principles appertained to Croatia.
Indeed, the Badinter report made it clear that the arbitration commission was unhappy about the situation in Croatia. It said:Regarding Croatia, the Commission has concluded that: —the constitutional law of 4 December 1991 does not cover in their entirety all of the points in the draft Convention of 4 November 1991, in particular those included in Chapter II, article 2C under the heading 'special status';—it is consequently incumbent on the authorities of the Republic of Croatia to add to the constitutional law…With this reservation, Croatia satisfies the required conditions.I maintain that on 15 January we were forced into recognition by pressure from Germany. I believe that we recognised Croatia because of Maastricht and not through the independent will of our Foreign Ministers.
Since then, in a well-respected Croatian newspaper, Zagrebacki Vjestnik, Miroslav Krec wrote on 12 February 1992:Growing dissatisfaction is becoming evident on the part of people of Moslem, Serbian, Montenegrin and other nationality (including Croatian), who are becoming increasingly vocal 'foreign citizens' as they pursue rights lost overnight in the very Republic in which many of them were born.How does one explain to an ever increasing number of dissatisfied people who these days queue for hours for the right of citizenship, that overnight they have become permanently resident foreigners in the Republic of Croatia, even though they were born in Croatia and spent their whole lives in Croatia?This is how many people in Croatia are being treated according to the Law on Croatian Citizenship and who, as a result of its provisions, are unable to preserve their basic human rights: they are unable to obtain a Croatian passport, their property rights are unresolved and they have no right to vote—even after 40 or 50 years of life and work in Croatia".That is the situation as seen by a Croatian writer in a respected newspaper in Croatia today.
There are many well-justified fears that there are yet to emerge in Croatia many more extremist opinions even than that of Franjo Tudjman. In some instances, schools have been renamed. One school has been renamed in honour of Mile Budak, Foreign Minister in the Ustashe Government during the second world war—a Government, incidentally, who were on the opposite side to us in that confict.
The Minister must see that the final remarks of his speech this evening are given full force. The Croatian Government must be told that human rights infringements —for infringements they are—must be put right and that we are not content simply to regard Milosevic as the worse of two criminals, so to speak. I believe that both Milosevic and Tudjman have a considerable amount to answer for.
492 Those of us who have known Yugoslavia over an extended period—in my case since the early 1960s—know full well that, despite all the difficulties of living under the communist Government, the Yugoslav regime was one of the more liberal in eastern Europe. There was some freedom of speech. I spoke to Milovan Djilas when I was in Yugoslavia in August. He was saddened by what was happening even though he was a leading dissident in the Tito years.
The great danger in eastern Europe now is a rise of nationalist leaders. It may be a more considerable danger than what went before. Such nationalist leaders know that, by playing the old-fashioned nationalist card and harking back to before not the second but the first world war, they can harness opinion in their name.
Kosovo has been mentioned. I agree with what the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Norris) had to say on the subject. Milosevic made his name by exploiting Serbian nationalism against the majority of the people in Kosovo province. There is a danger in giving Macedonia recognition. It is a true that the present Government in Macedonia seem a perfectly responsible, respectable Government with no territorial ambitions, but once party politics enters the scene in a free and independent Macedonia, who knows whether a Tudjman or Milosevic might not be lurking in the wings? Such a person might see a possibility of gaining power in his country by exploitation and by extending his eyes across the frontier into Greece, Albania or Bulgaria.
It was in our interests to stand by Yugoslavia. Way back, when I visited the Minister in the Foreign Office the year before last, I said that we should promote Yugoslavia's interests as a future member of the Council of Europe and suggested that we should have a special association treaty, and so on. Such suggestions tended to be ignored in those days. Perhaps we were more concerned about what was coming up in the Gulf.
I pay my respects to Lord Carrington for what he has done and is doing in the peace conference. I hope that the peace conference and the European Community can bring the peoples of Yugoslavia together again in some loose form of confederation. To have nationalities springing up all over the place giving encouragement to groups in other parts of eastern Europe, and even in western Europe is highly dangerous to peace in the world. It is in our interests to seek to put the pieces together.
§ Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)
Like many others, I am privileged to take part in the debate because almost certainly it will be the last occasion when my right hon. Friends the Members for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) and the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) will speak in a foreign affairs debate in the House. We are all conscious of that.
I am particularly pleased to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing). I have long been aware of his deep interest in and knowledge of Yugoslavia. I agree with his concluding words. If I may say so to the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), who speaks for the Liberal Democrats, the view expressed by the hon. Member for West Derby was what my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. 493 Howell), the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, had in mind when he spoke of the dangers of states splitting up into small units.
To those of us who are interested in the development of the European Community a multiplicity of independent small states will pose a particular problem. If they are all eager to enter the European Community, it will pose a major challenge.
I quarrel on one point with the hon. Member for West Derby. He said that our Government's recognition of Croatia and Slovenia was somehow a deal with the Germans to ease the way at Maastricht. I am sure that that is not the case. We and the rest of the European Community were bounced by the Germans into recognising Croatia. It was premature recognition. My hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State rightly said that we had adopted a cautious approach to recognition. But in the last period of our caution we were stampeded and we had no alternative if we wanted to maintain a unified European Community line. The Secretary of State used almost those words to the Select Committee.
I share the fears of many hon. Members who have spoken that, although it is right for a United Nations force to go into Yugoslavia, it will be a long time before it withdraws. Consider the Cyprus example. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, said, it is nearly 30 years since the United Nations forces went into Cyprus.
The use of United Nations forces often takes the pressure off the need for a settlement between the two warring factions in the area. I am afraid that that will be the case in Yugoslavia. The force will probably take the political heat out of the situation, we and the world community will quickly become bored with the subject and another United Nations force—with Britain rightly participating in it—will be left there for many years, possibly for decades. I do not think that that is a good solution.
Finally, as I am aware that other hon. Members wish to speak, let me say that although the debate has concentrated on Yugoslavia, the report by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs went wider, and it is a pity that we have not had time to debate some of the other huge issues. Perhaps it is worth pointing out that, when we were planning and deciding to carry out the report last summer, intense fighting had not broken out in Yugoslavia, the coup had not taken place in the Soviet Union and nor had its break-up.
As the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) said, the great rush of events that we have witnessed in this Parliament and in the past year have been exciting, but they have also been challenging and dangerous. I do not think that anyone has mentioned the fact that, even though there has not been a large migration from certain parts of eastern Europe, that remains a danger. It could and probably will happen in time, and it will provide us with an enormous challenge, especially in the European Community.
§ Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles)
I am aware that other hon. Members want to speak, so I shall keep my remarks brief by focusing on one issue which has been mentioned during the debate—the implications of the crisis and the series of events for the attempts of the 494 European Community to develop a common foreign and security policy. One thread of argument has run through the debate, implying a criticism of the Community in those attempts, and saying that what has happened with regard to Yugoslavia represents a failure on the part of the Community. I wish to argue strongly against that imputation.
The most remarkable aspect of the approach of the various countries of the Community towards the events in Yugoslavia is the way in which they have bent over backwards to maintain a united and common approach to the problem. They have tried to march in step when tackling the problem. Why have the various European countries done that, despite the obvious tensions? We have all mentioned the German angle, Germany's influence and its attitude to the recognition of Croatia. Despite that, there has been an attempt to maintain unity. Why?
First, it has been recognised that all efforts to alleviate the problem would have been fruitless without that sort of common front. The only way in which European countries may have a positive influence on the situation in Yugoslavia is by maintaining their unity and by operating through the Community. By so doing, each country has had a much greater influence than it could have had individually.
The second main reason for an impetus for a common approach was simply to avoid the real danger that, if countries took different approaches, smaller quarrels and conflicts could have merged into greater conflicts between the countries of western Europe. Surely that has been the historical pattern in Europe, especially in the Balkans. If the great powers—as they used to be called—begin to pick and choose different sides in a conflict which is restricted or localised to the Balkans, a small conflict may be magnified into a more dangerous dispute between larger countries. We see the prospect of that happening in Yugoslavia, in the dispute over the recognition of Macedonia. The Greek Government, acting from a purely national perspective, take one view, which other countries in western Europe find difficult to accept and to acknowledge.
A common approach by the European Community on tackling such problems is the only way in which we can have a positive influence on the resolution of those difficulties. The lesson to come out of the Yugoslav crisis is not the failure of a common foreign and security policy in the Community but the urgent need for one.
§ Mr. Steve Norris (Epping Forest)
In the one minute which I shall allow myself, I must welcome the observation of my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State when he made it clear that the British Government regard the settlement of the plight of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo as an essential part of the settlement for the former Yugoslavia. Having visited Kosovo in December, I know that their plight is desperate and is not to be underestimated. That is the forgotten region of Yugoslavia, and the irony is that that is probably because they have so far desisted from taking violent action against the Serbians, who have dominated them so ruthlessly for so many years. My hon. and learned Friend's remarks were most welcome.
495 In my experience, this has been the best debate of the past two Parliaments. To date, every speech has been of superb quality and, like hon. Members on both sides of the House, I have found it stimulating and enjoyable.
§ Mr. William Cash (Stafford)
I shall also speak briefly. One of my constituents is trapped in Yugoslavia and her parents telephoned me today. I have raised the matter with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and I hope that every conceivable effort will be made to protect her and to get her and her children out in extremely difficult circumstances.
It seems that there is at least one ray of hope in this tragic situation. In fine speeches, my right hon. Friends the Members for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) and for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) looked back to similar situations in 1940, but the position now is different. We have the advantage of the European Community and the United Nations, in its new mode.
I do not believe in a federal Europe. Some of the problems in Yugoslavia are a result of that form of federalism, which does not work. Now, we are in a completely different situation from that in 1940. Although there may be a background of German influence, none the less there is a probability—I hope a certainty—that we can combine national fervour with real democracy, and thereby help to mitigate the consequences of human nature.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Does the right hon. Gentleman have the leave of the House to speak again?
§ Mr. Howell
With the leave of the House, I wish to thank right hon. and hon. Members for the way in which they have received the report.
In the debate we have had the benefit of wise minds and long memories, and we should not be too surprised that they have disagreed with each other except in the one conclusion that has been generally agreed: we must support the UN as it goes into the terrifying situation to stop the killing. If we can wish the UN forces godspeed in that effort, our debate will have been worth while.
The debate was concluded, and the Question necessary to dispose of the proceedings was deferred, pursuant to paragraph (4) of Standing Order No. 52 (Consideration of estimates).