Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 19th July 2011.

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Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley 11:30 am, 19th July 2011

What recent assessment he has made of the level of political stability in the Balkans.

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

Progress on political and economic reform in the western Balkans is uneven. We welcome the successful conclusion of EU accession negotiations with Croatia but remain particularly concerned by the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where sustained international focus is needed.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. What is Her Majesty’s Government’s assessment of the readiness of Croatia and Serbia to join the EU, given the fact that, with hindsight, Romania and Bulgaria probably acceded to the Union too soon?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

The Croatian Government have met the conditions laid down by the Commission and supported by member states, but the European Council also agreed when it concluded accession negotiations that there should be a further stage of pre-accession monitoring to ensure that the Croatian authorities’ commitments to reform are still delivered in practice.

We look forward to the Commission’s report on Serbia’s progress on economic and political reform, which is due in December. Although the arrest of

Mr Mladic was an important step forward, it does not remove the need for Serbia to do everything else with regard to internal reform and addressing regional co-operation to meet the terms of EU accession.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham

On that very point, while welcoming the EU-brokered talks between Serbia and Kosovo, does the Minister share my disappointment that immediately afterwards President Tadic called for the partition of Kosovo? Serbia is also meddling in Bosnia and Montenegro as if it still controlled Serb regions in those countries. Does he agree that Serbia has to be told that it must accept Kosovo’s right to nation statehood and recognise Kosovo, and that that is a sine qua non for British acceptance of Serbia going down the road to EU membership?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

As far as the British Government are concerned, it is quite clear that the frontiers in the Balkans have been drawn and there is no going back on Kosovo’s independence. Regional co-operation must be addressed in the context of an accession process for Serbia and a full European perspective for Kosovo. We welcome the initial agreement reached through the dialogue and want that to progress further.

Photo of Bob Stewart Bob Stewart Conservative, Beckenham

While the political process in Bosnia is in such flux, the malign influence of organised crime is growing. I am very worried by this. What assessment does the Minister make about this horrible influence on the day-to-day lives of people in Bosnia?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

When I was in Sarajevo last month, the issue of corruption and, in particular, the failure of judicial and police institutions came up again and again in conversations with representatives of civil society. If Bosnia and Herzegovina is to make progress towards EU membership, it is vital that these matters are fully addressed. A detailed menu of reforms is laid out in the Commission’s report published at the end of last year. We continue to urge the Governments in Sarajevo and in Banja Luka—the two entities—to make progress. In the first place, they have to form a state-level Government. Until that is in place, it is difficult to see the required progress being made.

Photo of Wayne David Wayne David Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

It has been 16 years since the massacre at Srebrenica. Will the Government indicate what is being done at home and abroad to make sure that young people learn about this atrocity?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

My right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Warsi attended the anniversary commemorations in Srebrenica this year, and she made clear, in her public speech on behalf of the British Government and in her private conversations with civic and political leaders of the different communities, the importance of community reconciliation and of making sure that atrocities such as that of Srebrenica are not forgotten but serve as a reminder to everybody from all traditions, in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the wider Balkans, that the horrors of the past must be put behind us and that we need to work for reconciliation for the future.