Kosovan Developments: Statements (Resumed).

Before we adjourned on this matter, I urged the Minister for Foreign Affairs to arrange for a fuller debate on the role of the United Nations, particularly on the restructuring of that organisation, the role of the Security Council within it and the use of the veto. I got the impression that the Minister would assent to my request. It would be appropriate to have such a debate ranging from a consideration of the late Erskine Childers' and Brian Urquhart's discussion on the matter to other considerations made by other institutes.

I relate to that a further point which is extremely important and about which people are extremely and unhelpfully reticent. The character of our foreign policy has crucially changed with the emergence of a single world power. This means that frequently when we are discussing matters of international affairs and foreign policy we are very quickly moved to the crude question of whether or not we are in favour of military intervention. The balance between military intervention and extended diplomacy is moving very strongly in favour of what might be called the simplistic crudities of whether or not we are afraid to act.

Recent articles, including one by a former US diplomat posted here attacking John Pilger and the Minster for Foreign Affairs, quite disgracefully reduce Irish foreign policy to the test of whether we are for or against when we threaten to use military action. It is implied that if we fail this test we should not expect US support in our attempt to gain a seat on the UN Security Council. It is important to emphasise that the individual in question has retired and was not expressing US foreign policy but at the same time his views reflect an attitude which oversimplifies complex issues.

The kernel of this question concerns the shrinking of the realm of diplomatic capacity. I say this by way of preface to what I have to say because the public belief in the capacity of the international community to give adequate protection to ethnic Albanians in Kosovo is extremely limited. In fact, people have been taking the experience of Bosnia-Herzegovina and saying that as that model of a weak and late international initiative is there for all to see, is this all that is on offer now? They list further and real questions such as, what is the status of the crimes against humanity accusation which has been made against President Molosevic? Is this still extant or has it been set aside on foot of an agreement which is far from satisfactory? They ask, what is the role of force which will be deployed? The Minster's statement is interesting in this regard. He says, for example, that the role is not one of monitoring but also of verification. Verification is left rather bald in the statement.

The question arises as to whether such a force will have the right to deliver such circumstances as are necessary to enable refugees to return in security. The refugees have through their spokespersons made it very clear that to be put back in a situation where those who were perpetrators of crimes against them — where 500 villages have been destroyed and 500,000 people have been displaced — will invigilate over their return would not be acceptable. The spokespersons for the people who have been driven from their homes, and against whom such appalling violence has been visited in Kosovo, have raised questions as to how active the force that will be deployed can be. How does the Minister's term "verification" address the reasonable criticism that what has been forced out of President Milosovic at this stage is what was asked of him six months ago? Even if the potential of a military strike is kept in readiness to act as a type of guarantor for the six months deal delivered late, what confidence can the refugees have in it?

A further issue, and one on which this House would have welcomed more assurance, is the ability of humanitarian aid to get to the people who need it, unmediated by the actions and approval of the person who created all the human circumstances which have given rise to the need for the aid in the first place. Another aspect of the issue of human aid is how quickly it can be delivered before the winter. I agree with the Deputy who said that weeks and even a month is a very long time in terms of the danger that exists, but even more important is the question of the aid being given without any sanction against the person who has been responsible for the great human distress towards which the aid is directed.

Those who speak for the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo suggest there is nothing capable of being spoken about other than independence, and that it is a waste of time to speak about forms of political autonomy because autonomy is a fragile existence under the shadow of a dictatorship. That casts a question over the third principle of the present initiative which is that of constructing a political dialogue.

I want to deal with an important matter which has concerned me for a long time. When the situation arose in Bosnia-Herzegovina people in this country said they were appalled by what was happening and they frequently asked politicians what they were doing about it. They asked if we were in favour of arming those who were not armed, disarming those who were armed or different forms of military action. If we have reached a point where only military sanction gets results, it is important that we, as parliamentarians, recognise that is close to the death of diplomacy and it is a very low point in terms of foreign policy.

I do not have an absolutist position on how such distinctions have to be revisited in relation to peacekeeping and peacemaking. It is necessary to be able to intervene because people who have been accused of crimes against humanity stand immune from public opinion. It would be foolhardy, therefore, to look from a distance at hundreds of thousands of people regularly suffering what have been classified as crimes against humanity while we have faith in words and say that only a military action is required. Many people, including myself, would have reservations about arriving at what I call the nadir of international relations, where it is only the threat of force that will work. I acknowledge we are at that point.

If we accept this agreement, fragile as it is, the international community that identifies with it and the European Union, which will play a role, will have to answer on the statements and evidence that have been provided about the Russian component of previous international observer forces in relation to Bosnia. It is important to state that there is a sense of frustration among politicians on all sides as to the appropriate action that can be taken. When we think of the options beyond this temporary agreement that are on offer, what stands in the wings is an armed strike. What will happen if Ireland is called upon to support an armed strike? Before people go down that road they should bear in mind the impact. Despite all the rhetoric of militarists in the greatest powers in the world, there is no such thing as an intelligent military strike which leaves civilians intact. It would be a gross lie for anyone in the world to say the strike against Iraq involved the use of smart missiles that chose only military targets.

Equally, it is important to bear in mind another moral dimension. I am horrified that an Irish person serving as the co-ordinator for humanitarian relief in Iraq has resigned because his work in delivering medical humanitarian relief and food aid to children has been impeded by the way the sanctions have operated and the consequences for the Iraqi public. The international community sometimes draws the conclusion that it is the responsibility of the Iraqi people that they have Saddam Hussein in charge and, therefore, they must all suffer indiscriminately. In terms of existing conflicts, including Kosovo, people have said that we have to be able to deal with the fact that Milosovic is operating like a dictator. He has been accused of crimes against humanity.

I mentioned the history of the fragile situation that existed in the past between all the different ethnicities and diversities in these areas. We must find a way in which people can have a peaceful future but it is unhelpful to condemn out of hand all peoples because of leadership. It is equally true that the tool used by Milosovic in conducting his campaign in Kosovo has been an abuse of nationalism, in the worst sense, and an abuse of ethnicity and the different dimensions used to inculcate fear and milk the consequences — the down side of everything that has often been alleged against a narrow view.

When the Minister for Foreign Affairs, for whom I have sympathy, meets his fellow Ministers, they have to deal not only with the list of academic differences between people, but with the real fears of people who have had their homes and communities destroyed, members of their families raped and murdered and who now stand on the edge of winter as displaced people. For several years the people of Kosovo had been relatively ignored by the international community. It cannot be denied that they were neglected in the Dayton discussions. Under what circumstances can they have any trust? I see no other construction from the latest temporary suggestion which has been negotiated other than asking them to go back to the position in which they were before, and to do so under the very shadow of the people who have visited the worst of consequences on them. I do not have, therefore, the same cautious optimism about the agreement as the Minister for Foreign Affairs. We must place this debate into a wider context so we can begin to see a way beyond this.

I asked for the reform of the United Nations in relation to the Tribunal on Crimes Against Humanity. Unless we are able to act, calling people guilty of crimes against humanity and then looking on while no attempt is made to deal with such people is singularly nugatory in a moral sense. To say that if we do anything, it will be in such a way as to impact on the civilians who have to suffer such people is the same. It must be dealt with in terms of new initiatives by the international community. It is dislodging the international community's capacity to restore confidence in the UN and in the international rule of law and diplomacy if we retreat to the idea that there is a single power in the world which can function as international policeman in substitution for what might have been — international consensus and norms derived through law and diplomacy. It is not easy to say this. In a way it is a long confession of certain ways in which the European Union is impotent.

I wish the Minister well and I welcome the agreement because it is important. Let us remember that some of the opponents of this agreement have suggested that hostages are being put in place on the ground. They are asking what happens if it all goes wrong and we have to remove them and what mechanism exists for getting the hostages out of the way to take the action which was previously deferred. That is the logic with which we are dealing. However, if it is fragile, temporary and asking an extraordinary act of trust from those most affected, it is at the same time all we have. I am glad the Minister for Foreign Affairs has undertaken to report back and make further statements from his discussions in the European Union as to how the situation progresses.

The most urgent immediate need is aid. The amount of aid we have pledged is very small by comparison to the need for it. We must move this aid quickly and in an unconditional fashion to those who most need it.

When arrangements were originally made for this debate last week, it looked as if the House would be discussing a significantly worsened situation in Kosovo and Serbia in the aftermath of NATO airstrikes and the inevitable casualties which would have followed. Luckily common sense has prevailed, NATO and Milosevic have pulled back from the brink and an opportunity has been presented to try to secure a peaceful solution to the problems of the region.

The US envoy, Richard Holbrooke, is entitled to full credit for persisting with the talks during the past week when things looked very bleak and it seemed that agreement was beyond reach. It seemed that some elements of NATO were itching for the opportunity to unleash the B52s and the cruise missiles. Military attacks in this situation, especially without the specific sanction of the United Nations, would have been a serious misjudgment. It would have reopened Cold War divisions between Russia and the West and increased tensions in the Balkans. It would in all probability have strengthened the political position of Milosevic, a person who is imbued with the most malignant form of nationalism. It would have done nothing for the humanitarian needs of the people of Kosovo and, based on similar experiences in the past, it would have almost certainly led to the death and mutilation of entirely innocent people.

Everyone acknowledges that the deal brokered by Mr. Holbrooke is not a permanent solution but hopefully it will bring an end to the immediate conflict and provide a period when a more lasting solution can be pursued. The priority must now be the humanitarian needs of the people of Kosovo who face appalling conditions in the harsh winter which is just weeks away. There are hundreds of thousands of refugees who must be facilitated in returning to their homes, many of which have been destroyed or damaged and need reconstruction. A supply chain must be established for food and medical needs. This will be an expensive operation and Ireland must make a contribution to this effort. I welcome the indication by the Minister in his address that some help will be forthcoming in that area. I hope that those countries which have already spent tens of millions of pounds in anticipation of military strikes and which were prepared to spend perhaps hundreds of millions in carrying them out will now be willing to commit similar sums of money to meet the humanitarian needs of the people of Kosovo.

I welcome the central role being given to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in verifying the agreement and I hope that Ireland will be involved in providing personnel for the proposed 2,000 strong force to monitor developments in Kosovo. The Minister indicated that he was having discussions with his Government colleagues on how they might assist but he did not indicate whether personnel would be provided.

I have always felt that the OSCE had considerable potential to help resolve conflicts like this and I regret that it has not been used more often. With 55 member states it is much more broadly based than either the European Union or NATO and enjoys the advantage of including within its numbers countries which were on opposing sides in the Cold War, as well as neutral countries like Ireland. In fairness, Ireland has pushed for greater use of the OSCE and I hope that we will continue to do so.

There is no doubt that the OSCE team will face a difficult task in verifying the implementation of this agreement. The agreement in general meets the requirement of the United Nations Security Resolution of 23 September, providing as it does for early elections, a reduction in the military forces, an amnesty for those who had opposed Serbian forces and a restructuring of the local police force to reflect the ethnic composition of the local population.

It is clear that the agreement falls short of the aspirations of many Kosovars, particularly the Kosovo Liberation Army, many of whom want full independence. Others make no secret of their ultimate aim of the creation of a greater Albania. However, significant autonomy is all that is realistically achievable given the geopolitical ramifications of full independence.

We must remember that while Milosevic and his troops have been guilty of acts of barbarism against the people of Kosovo, the KLA has also been guilty of horrific acts of terrorism. As one Irish official who served with the UN remarked, there are no boy scouts in the former Yugoslavia.

Tito for all his faults recognised that a state like Yugoslavia could only be held together if considerable autonomy was given to its disparate parts. Kosovo was given considerable autonomy in the revised Yugoslav constitution of 1974, allowing Albanian language schools, the observance of Islamic holy days and representation in the old collective federal presidency. Unfortunately, in his lust for power in the post-Tito era, Milosevic stirred up ethnic tension and in the case of Kosovo took away the province's autonomous status in 1989, sent in huge numbers of Serbian troops and police, withdrew the status of Albanian as an official language and changed the school curriculum.

In their declaration after the Cardiff summit last June, EU leaders stated in relation to Kosovo, "The European Union remains firmly opposed to independence. It continues to support a special status including a large degree of autonomy for Kosovo within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." That in my view is a reasonable position and one which I would support. Full independence for Kosovo might set off a chain of events which could have consequences for not just what is left of Yugoslavia, but also for surrounding countries such as Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and Albania. We must therefore ensure that the Holbrooke agreement works, that real and meaningful autonomy is granted, that the religious and cultural traditions of the people of Kosovo are respected, that their human rights are fully respected and that adequate resources are made available for relief and reconstruction.

It is clear that the break-up of Yugoslavia has not been a positive development for Europe or the Balkans. Speaking in the Dáil on 12 July 1991, on a motion approving the sending of a monitor mission to Yugoslavia, I warned that "the disintegration of Yugoslavia could set off a chain of events leading to the emergence of a large number of states with conflicting territorial disputes and potentially explosive ethnic disputes." These words proved unfortunately to be prophetic and the last seven years have seen probably the worst ethnic and inter-communal violence Europe has experienced since the Second World War. The complex, political and regional structures established by Tito were allowed to crumble and ethnic tensions which had lain dormant since the Second World War were allowed to bubble to the surface with disastrous results. The conflict in Kosovo is the latest manifestation of this and it may not be the last.

The decision of the German Government in 1991 to recognise the declarations of independence made by Slovenia and Croatia were premature and while it may have been done for what seemed to the Germans to be the best of reasons, it effectively marked the death of Yugoslavia and set off the chain of events which have led to so much death and destruction. We are still coping with the consequences of these events.

What we should have learned from the past decade in Yugoslavia and from our own history in the past 30 years is that nationalism can be a corrosive and destructive force especially when symbols, flags, rituals or names are allowed take precedence over the lives of human beings. In Northern Ireland people's political views can be identified by whether one says Derry or Londonderry. The same is true in Kosovo. Yet what difference does it make to the lives of ordinary people if they live in Derry or Londonderry or in Kosovo or Kosova?

We need to move beyond nationalism. Traditional enemies such as Germany and France are the closest of colleagues in the EU but in much of eastern and central Europe the divisions are as deep as ever and constantly threaten to spill over to violent conflict.

On our own island the continuing conflict around Drumcree shows that despite the British-Irish Agreement, the legacy of bitterness and hatred have yet to be overcome. We need to look at a new European collective security system where ethnic minorities, oppressed groups, the economically dispossessed do not have to resort to arms and fundamentalism, based on culture, religion or ethnicity, to have their security protected. The OSCE can play a significant role in this regard particularly if it can successfully carry out the tasks assigned to it in Kosovo.

I will be brief as Deputies Higgins and De Rossa have referred to many of the issues I intended to address. On behalf of the Green Party we welcome the deal struck between Mr. Holbrooke and Mr. Milosevic. It is appropriate that the observers being sent to monitor the agreement will be under the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe which includes all European states and will be seen as impartial.

Given Milosevic's record in constantly testing out the resolve of the international community, it is important that the observers are given every resource necessary to effectively monitor the situation. The main weakness of the agreement is that Kosovo remains part of Yugoslavia and, clearly, that is not what 90 per cent of the population want. Their view will never be supported by the main powers in Europe because most have regions that want independence. If they support independence for Kosovo, awkward questions will be asked in Corsica, the Basque region and Chechnya. This matter was raised by Deputy De Rossa when he referred to the geopolitical ramifications.

We must ask why the Kosovo crisis was allowed develop to the brink of military action. Should the international community have imposed sanctions on Yugoslavia as soon as the recent offensive by the Yugoslav army began? It was not until we had evidence of massacres that the world's governments reacted. By then it was probably too late for sanctions and military action was threatened.

Once again the limitations of the UN have been exposed. The primary problem for that organisation is that a veto can be exercised by the US, Russia, China, France and the UK. It is hypocritical of the US to complain about UN impotence but still insist on holding on to the veto. The reality is that it wants the UN to be weak so that NATO can have an excuse to throw its weight around. If NATO is genuinely concerned about governments launching offensives against civilian populations, what about one of its own members, Turkey? Turkey has been doing to the Kurds for decades what Yugoslavia is doing to the Kosovars and the US has no qualms about supplying Turkey with all the weapons it needs to do this. Turkey has even launched assaults across the Iraqi border into an area under UN protection but has earned no more than a slap on the wrist.

Ireland should have nothing to do with NATO while that organisation engages in such outrageous double standards. Until the main powers adopt a consistent stand on world events and give the UN the power it needs to act effectively, and at an early stage in the crisis, atrocities will continue to happen.

Obviously there are flaws in the agreement and these have been referred to by those lobbying on behalf of the Kosovars. The Kosovars will remain under the control of the Serbian police which, in effect, will continue a rule of terror. The reduction of Serb forces to pre-March levels means a highly armed force will maintain a type of martial law. Also the role of the OSCE monitors will be restricted to observing events on the ground, with a policing role restricted to aerial surveillance by NATO.

Amnesty has made a number of important recommendations. The House should listen closely to what that organisation has to say on the crisis. It is pressing, as I have done previously, for adequately resourced human rights monitors with a clear mandate, independent of any political process, to be part of any international presence in Kosovo and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

There is also a need to provide information about and access to detainees from Kosovo who are at risk of torture and ill-treatment and information about the disappeared. We need long-term measures such as the retaining and structuring of the police and establishment of effective national human rights institutions.

I was in Yugoslavia when Tito died. I recall vividly an individual saying to me that would be the end of Yugoslavia. He predicted the terrible bloody consequences which we are seeing today. The Balkan region is extremely volatile and all democracies in Europe will need to keep a close eye on it.

I express appreciation for the views put forward by Members on the extremely important issues of Kosovo. Everybody in the Chamber shares the view that the events in Kosovo in recent weeks have passed beyond the threshold of what can be tolerated. They represent a challenge and an affront to the values of democracy which are shared by states throughout Europe, including the EU, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Council of Europe — all organisations to which the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia aspired to membership.

The agreement reached this week provides an opportunity for all those directly involved — the authorities in Belgrade, the Kosovo-Albanian leadership, as well as the international community — to break the vicious circle that has led to the present appalling situation and to build on the foundation of a political settlement to the problems of Kosovo that will be in accordance with the principles on which our international system is based.

I reiterate the Government's readiness to ensure Ireland contributes to the efforts needed to bring about the desired result. In his opening statement, the Minister for Foreign Affairs referred to our willingness to contribute to the new verification mission, to the extent that this is feasible. He also reiterated our commitment to provide substantial humanitarian aid to those in need. This will be a major issue in the weeks and months ahead. These needs are immediate and the Government will move rapidly to ensure there is an effective response.

I wish to respond to some specific points raised by Deputies in the area of humanitarian aid, the need for effective co-operative security measures and some of the shortcomings of the agreement. Deputy Durkan referred to the need to prosecute war crimes. Ireland, in common with our EU partners, takes the view that Yugoslavia must cooperate fully with the UN effort to pursue and indict war criminals. As Bosnia has shown, this is a difficult area and, unfortunately, progress can be slow. However, there has been progress in tracking down indictees in Bosnia and the international community will insist on concrete progress also in relation to Kosovo.

In his report to the Security Council on Kosovo, the UN Secretary General stated that the great majority of atrocities have been committed by Yugoslavia's security forces. The Secretary General reported that there was good reason to believe that Kosovan Albanian military units have also, regrettably, committed atrocities.

I endorse the Secretary General's view that all involved in the killing and mistreatment of civilians must be brought to justice. This is a clear demand of Resolution 1199, which must be complied with. The resolution demands that unimpeded access be given to the monitoring and verification mission, so that it can assist in the effort to deliver humanitarian aid directly and unimpeded, without intermediaries other than aid workers. It must be recalled that the Holbrook-Molosevic agreement is designed to get compliance with the resolution.

As the Minister for Foreign Affairs made clear in his opening statement, we are already contributing substantial amounts through UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the EU humanitarian office to help Kosovan refugees. The immediate need is to help those living out of doors or in makeshift accommodation, either in Kosovo itself or some of the neighbouring countries. The Government will consider what additional assistance may be needed. We must ensure the verification committee can do its work.

What we have seen in the approach of the international community to dealing with the issues of the western Balkans is the need to maximise the influence which can be brought to bear, not just be one organisation but a number of bodies acting in concert. The EU has played and continues to play a key role, both in the contact group of countries which is co-ordinating the international response, and through its own policies, which are designed to make possible self-sustaining democracy in Bosnia and the restoration of Kosovo's autonomous status.

The lesson for us will be to see whether the combination of influences, which were initially used successfully in the Dayton agreement, can be similarly used in the future to ensure the necessary results are obtained. It would have been much better if President Molosevic had got the message six months ago, or if enhanced EU methods on their own had achieved the desired outcome. However, the deployment of maximum pressure has avoided the need to carry out enforcement actions such as air strikes. If we are interested in saving lives in situations such as has arisen in Kosovo, we will have to look at ways to improve co-operation and mutually reinforce synergies among the international organisations concerned.