HC Deb 25 February 2003 vol 400 cc120-1
10. Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge)

If he will make a statement on the political situation in Serbia and Montenegro. [98791]

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane)

The Serbia and Montenegro state union was proclaimed on 4 February. Elections to the new Parliament are taking place there. We urge the new Government, when in place, to press ahead with reforms, including co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Mr. Randall

Does the Minister agree that one of the biggest problems facing Serbia and Montenegro is the huge number of refugees and internally displaced people within its borders? That exerts a great deal of pressure, and will possibly lead to political instability. What will the Government do to try to return those people to their rightful homes?

Mr. MacShane

The hon. Gentleman, who takes a great interest in the region and contributes positively to the House's discussions and debates on it, raises an important point. We still have a large number of British troops in the region to try to ensure that people can go back to their homes and villages. The hon. Gentleman will know that one of the best contributions that might be made is for the new Serbian and Montenegrin Government to surrender to The Hague all the alleged and indicted criminals, given the actions that took place. That is the most important step that could be taken to bring peace and stability and to restore confidence to the region as a whole.

Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)

Is my hon. Friend aware that 1 have represented the Council of Europe as an election observer in the last two presidential elections in Serbia? Because of a ruling introduced under Milosevic that means that there has to be a turnout of 50 per cent, the clear wishes of the people of Serbia were not met. Such a turnout was not achieved on either occasion. Therefore, when my hon. Friend next meets the Serbian authorities, will he say that that ruling does not meet the wishes of the people of Serbia and that it needs to be changed?

Mr. MacShane

I am not quite sure that it is for the British Government to dictate the electoral system for the election, under the old arrangements, of the President of Serbia. We now have a new entity, Serbia and Montenegro, and elections to its Parliament are taking place today. Perhaps if there were a candidate who could command sufficient support because he or she was saying the right things for a new Serbia and Montenegro, that person might receive the support to overcome the technical barrier to which my hon. Friend referred.

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