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B92, September 04, 2010
William Hague - "It would be good to withdraw resolution"

Below is the transcript of the interview British Foreign Secretary William Hague gave to B92 TV's Ljubica Gojgić during his recent visit to Belgrade:


B92: Mr. Hague, let us begin this interview with a few quotations from both the British and Serbian media. Most of them see your (visit) as an extended pressure on Belgrade to withdraw the resolution on Kosovo that has been sent to the UN General Assembly. Are they wrong?

Hague: This is part of discussing life forward with Serbia and the UN resolution is part of those discussions, but I think there is something much bigger here which is the future of the European Union, of the whole of the Western Balkans in the European Union. And really what I want people to know including the leaders of Serbia is that the United Kingdom remains a very strong supporter of the enlargement of the EU, of Serbia doing everything possible that it can to bring itself and other nations into the European Union and that is the goal that we have to keep in mind.

B92: And that means withdrawing the resolution on Kosovo?

Hague: Yes, and that means on the resolution that it is much better to work together with the European nations on any resolution in the UN General Assembly.

B92: What does that mean? What would satisfy you? If Belgrade decided to withdraw the resolution, or would you also be happy with certain changes?

Hague: It would be good to withdraw the resolution as it stands, also reach agreement with the rest of the EU on the resolution. And the important thing now is to find practical ways of improving cooperation of working together between Serbia and Kosovo so that both countries can have a EU perspective, so both in time can move into the EU.

B92: Letís go back to the resolution before we talk about the EU perspective. If Serbia refuses to withdraw the resolution, then where do you see space for compromise?

Hague: That makes compromise more difficult, of course. I think that puts Serbia into a more difficult position. Just think about it, 22 of the EU nations, 80 percent of the EU have recognized Kosovo, so has 70 percent of all the nations in the Council of Europe, 60 percent of all the nations in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). And so being on a different path from all of those nations on this of course complicates Serbiaís future rather than makes it easier.

B92: Of course, but 20 percent of EU members support Serbia, and less than a half of all the General Assembly members support the independence of Kosovo. So I will repeat my question, where do you see the space for compromise, which paragraphs of the Serbian resolution should be changed to open the space for negotiations?

Hague: Iím not going into a textual analysis on the television nor have I come, by the way, with a compromise text or to negotiate a compromise today, let me make that clear. This is a broader discussion. What I would like is for the president to talk to Cathy Ashton, Baroness Ashton, the EU high representative, about the way forward together and to encourage her and work with her to facilitate practical cooperation between Serbia and Kosovo together and to find a way forward together and I want that to be done by the whole of the EU and not by Britain coming to negotiate something today.

B92: Mr. Hague, the word is that you spent many summer days lobbying against the Serbian resolution all over the world, that you sent a letter all the way to China to ask for support. Why is this issue so important?

Hague: Itís very important that we find a common European future for the nations of the Balkans, and I really care about that. I wouldnít be here if I didnít care about it, I could sit in London and just say what I thought but Iíve come here Serbia to talk to the leaders of Serbia I very much care about this as do people in Britain and British leaders in general, we want Serbia and we want the Western Balkans as a whole to be a part of the EU and that is why itís very important to move on from the disputes in the past.

B92: When do you want the Balkans to become a member of the EU?

Hague: I want it as soon as possible, we are strong advocates of enlargement and we want things to be able to proceed as quickly as possible, but we want all the nations of the Balkans to be able to do that.

B92: Is it correct that it is a long-term project? That is what Mr. Westerwelle said, that you all see the Balkans within the EU but that it is something that is not going to happen soon.

Hague: Well, I hope that it is something that is going to happen soon, so I do believe in that very passionately and that is why Iím against things like the resolution that has been put before the UN General Assembly, because I think that is looking to the past rather than the future. I think there is a danger Serbia will be caught between its past and its future without being able to go back to the past and without being able to move on to the future. And so what Iím saying today is look to the future now, the job prospects, the business prospects of the people out here in the street, that lies in the membership in the EU and that should be the goal of the policy here.

B92: You know that I have these projects here that Serbia could join the EU before 2020 and yet you want the issue of the resolution and of Serbiaís attitude toward Serbia to be resolved immediately. Why?

Hague: Well, because that is part of moving towards the EU, since clearly to be in the EU nations have to work productively together and they have to be able to work with those nations already in the EU. So here we are with 80 percent of the EU that has recognized Kosovo. Serbia has to come to terms with working with those nations and finding practical ways to work together with Kosovo. Weíre not saying Serbia has to recognize Kosovo today, but we do need to find practical ways to work together.

B92: But do you expect Serbia to recognize Kosovo before joining the EU?

Hague: Well, that is for the EU future. Clearly nations have to be able to work together to be in the EU but we have enough problems to sort out today without going on to what stages these things takes place in.

B92: So the Serbian president is wrong to believe that Serbia will be allowed not to ever recognize Kosovo?

Hague: I havenít come here to discuss that today, Iím saying Iím not expecting him to be able to turn around today and say ĎWeíre going to recognize Kosovoí, but what we do want is to be able to work with the EU. Thatís all weíre asking Ė Serbia to work with the EU and the EU to facilitate practical ways of cooperating between Serbia and Kosovo, making sure that Serbiaís future in the EU and the future of the whole of the Balkans in the EU is still very much something that is alive.

B92: Here in Belgrade we hear a lot of various phrases about the EU perspectives and about the membership that is to follow, to materialize at some point and everybody sees clearly that is a long-term project. What would happen in case you manage to make a deal, to reach a compromise with Belgrade, what would be immediate benefit that Serbia will see from the EU? Would that mean that Great Britain is going to ratify the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA)?

Hague: That was already got going. That was agreed last year.

B92: Are you going to support Serbiaís application for candidate status and when?

Hague: If we can find a right way forward, way forward to all working together on this and of course the United Kingdom is a strong supporter of all of these things and of Serbiaís membership in the EU and in fact not only are we one of the supporters of that, we are leading supporters and the strongest supporters.

B92: When are you going to put that on the agenda? On September 10, 11? November 11? Next year? In 2012?

Hague: That is for discussion among the foreign ministers of the EU and the EU high representative. Clearly there is a hope that Serbiaís membership application will be going for an opinion to the Commission can happen soon, but that does depend inevitably on Serbia being able to work constructively with the rest of the EU nations, including on this question.

B92: Letís talk about scenario B. What if Serbia kindly refuses your offer and if the resolution remains before the UN General Assembly without any significant changes? What would happen then?

Hague: This raises new obstacles, whereas in fact we should be getting rid of obstacles this would place new obstacles in our path. Exactly as my colleague Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, said last week and Iím in complete agreement with him about that, he said that the geographic map of Southeastern Europe is now finished. And that is my position as well. So, going back and trying to change that, not just in Serbia but in any other country, raises new obstacles in the path of the EU membership.

B92: One of our viewers posted a comment that Mr. Westerwelle obviously never met Mr. Helmut Kohl so that is how he came to such a conclusion on borders. But letís go back to why wouldnít you let the discussion before the UNGA to unfold and Serbia to fail with its resolution if you are confident that there would be no changes that the whole world more or less, the most important countries would support the independence of Kosovo?

Hague: I donít think that it is in the interest of Serbia to fail. Serbia has already had a setback of course in the opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). I donít think that was the opinion that Serbiaís leaders would have wanted when they referred the matter to the ICJ. Also having a setback at the UN General Assembly is not in the interest of Serbia.

B92: Is it true that you fear that Serbia might win this?

Hague: Well, I think that even if Serbia were to win it there is a new difficulty which is then set on a course of action which cannot succeed, which is in conflict with most of the EU. I canít stress that point too strongly, that the great majority of the EU has recognized Kosovo, a great majority of the Council of Europe as well. Serbia has a European future and itís time now to move on to that future, the opportunity is there to work closely with the EU and to work with Cathy Ashton, to work with the EU foreign ministers in order to bring that about. So, I think itís in the interest of the people of this country to now take that opportunity.

B92: Mr. Hague, you welcomed the ICJ opinion?

Hague: Of course, we recognized Kosovo at the beginning, so off course weíre going to be welcoming a ruling that says that it was legal.

B92: But I assume that you welcomed an entire document and not just the part that unilateral declaration of independence was not violating the international law and the rest of the text also containing paragraphs 34, 40, 51, 56 where actually the court affirms that issues of succession of independence and recognition of new states is something that General Assembly and the Security Council should deal with? So basically, going before the General Assembly could be seen as following the recommendation of the advisory opinion?

Hague: Well, my point in that would be that to take these matters to General Assembly is much better to do so together and to have found a way forward in taking in to the General Assembly. And that is why, again, it is better to work with the EU and not to table resolutions in the UN General Assembly which inevitably create a conflict or dispute in most of the EU. Itís much better to find a way to move forward together. Itís got to be in the interest of Serbia and of the whole Balkans and ultimately the whole of Europe.

B92: To summarize it, Belgrade should withdraw the resolution or at least discuss its content and come to an agreement for something you call a European perspective but you cannot clearly define it?

Hague: I think itís very clear, I think for people here who want their country to be a part of the EU, to be a part of the prosperity of the EU, to have all the opportunities to travel wherever they wish, including to neighboring countries and to be able to visit families, to be able to work in other places, I think that is very clearly defined and I think that is the life that I imagine most of the people in Serbia would like and so the future there is very clearly defined and itís now important to take the next necessary steps to secure that future and if Serbia does so it would have a great friend and strong supporter in the United Kingdom.

B92: Mr. Hague, my last question would be about your personal agenda. You strongly criticized the EU for, I think you said ďletting Bosnia splitĒ, criticizing entities becoming stronger and the EU doing nothing about that. However, you also advocate splitting Serbia. Could you explain those double standards.

Hague: I want to see an end to these disputes, conflicts in the Balkans and it has to come a time when we say ďWe have reached the end of these thingsĒ as my colleague from Germany put it last week, the map of Southeastern Europe, the geographic map is now finished. Yes, there will always be people who say that this is the wrong time to call an end to that but it has to be a time. And so the time to do that is now because the prospects, the future prospects if we can move on from that are so exciting for this continent and this part of this continent and that sort of personal agenda of mine, thatís a long-standing position of the United Kingdom, the policy Iím pursuing is the same policy as of my predecessor and the Labor government.

B92: Thatís what Oxford Professor Mark Almond told the BBC yesterday, that it is a key problem that Belgrade might have with Great Britain, that you still see Serbia and the region through the same eyes as 80 years ago.

Hague: But of course we donít, because everything Iím talking about is the future, itís the next few years, itís the next few decades, itís the next generation and every country has to come to terms with things. Britain had to come to terms with things in its own way, in a totally different way, but we have done so and now we realize itís time for Serbia to do the same.

B92: As long as the future is not Kosovo within Serbia?

Hague: I think that Iíve set out my position.

B92: Thank you very much, Mr. Hague.

Hague: Thank you.

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