Yugoslavia

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th April 1998.

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Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour, East Lothian 12:00 am, 7th April 1998

If he will make a statement on progress towards stability and democracy in the former Yugoslavia. [36534]

Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

We have witnessed considerable progress over recent months, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the elections in Republika Srpska last November. However, there remains a lot to be done to enhance stability before any of the countries of that region can claim to be fully democratic.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour, East Lothian

My hon. Friend may be aware that I have a little experience of the conflict in Bosnia. Surely the main lesson to be learned from that is that the west must take a tough line on extreme nationalism in every part of Yugoslavia. I welcome the comments that my right hon. Friend made about Serb excesses in Kosovo, but may I urge my hon. Friend not to lose sight of the appalling record of the Croatian authorities, not only in Bosnia but in Krajina? Will he take this opportunity to condemn President Tudjman's latest outburst, which keeps him very much in the same nationalistic stable as Slobodan Milosevic? Does he agree that there can be no question of Croatia's joining the family of European nations under that kind of leadership?

Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My hon. Friend rightly points out the disgraceful speech that President Tudjman made to his party congress in February, in which he played to the most unpleasant nationalistic sentiments, not only of his fellow countrymen but of the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina. That speech was condemned throughout the European Union. We have made it clear to President Tudjman and his Government that any movement towards Europe depends on a genuinely multi-ethnic settlement within his country, on the return of Serb refugees and others to their traditional areas, on a serious attempt at a process of reconciliation, and on a crackdown on the ethnic violence that continues to disfigure Croatia.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

On the same theme, does the Minister agree that it is vital that the Croatian Government allow Serbs to return to their former homes in Krajina and eastern Slovenia? Would not that free up homes in Bosnia and Herzegovina for other returnees? Is the Minister absolutely satisfied that the Government are doing all that they can to put pressure on the Croatian Government to remove that logjam?

Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The hon. Gentleman is right. There is no doubt that the return of refugees is vital to the proper and full implementation of the Dayton agreement. President Tudjman is one of the parties to that agreement. It is right and proper that Serbs should be allowed to return to Croatia because it would allow the process to take place throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, where places would be liberated by Serbs returning to Croatia. The international community is apprised of the need to put pressure on President Tudjman and his Government. A conference will soon be held in Banja Luka to deal with refugee return throughout the region. We demand that the Croatian Government play a constructive part there as well as in Croatia.