Yugoslavia

Part of Class Ii, Vote 2 – in the House of Commons at 6:52 pm on 5th March 1992.

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Photo of Mr Calum MacDonald Mr Calum MacDonald , Na h-Eileanan an Iar 6:52 pm, 5th March 1992

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 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.