Accessibility links

Breaking News

Yugoslavia: Blair Tells EBRD West Will Stand Firm On Kosovo

London, 19 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair says each renewed act of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo is just one more reason to stand firm and to insist the policy of racism and devastation in the province will be defeated.

Blair told the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London that his message to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is that Milosevic will be made to withdraw his 40,000 troops in Kosovo, an international military force will go in to secure the land for the Kosovar Albanians, and the refugees will be returned.

Blair said: "Our determination on these points -- the minimum demands civilization makes -- is absolute."

He said Milosevic discovered 10 years ago that he could keep his communist apparatus in power in post-Tito Yugoslavia by "appealing to the basest instincts of Serb nationalism. That is why he withdrew the autonomy that Kosovo had enjoyed in the Tito years."

Blair said Milosevic's military and police are engaged in Kosovo in "a brutal campaign of intimidation and murder that has led to the forced displacement of 1.4 million Kosovars ... for the simple reason that they are ethnic Albanians."

Blair said the case of rump Yugoslavia shows that the transition to democracy has not been a success in every corner of Eastern and Central Europe.

But he said several Central European countries stand out as "beacons of success, and their hard-won reforms are starting to pay dividends."

He said over the past three years the five large Central European countries have achieved economic growth of 4.5 percent a year. He said growth has been highest in those countries which have reformed most radically.

The cases of Hungary and Poland showed that fundamental structural changes, openness and sound administration bring investment in their wake.

But he said that the process of transition from command to market economies across the region has proved more challenging than many imagined.

He said: "Communism was no ordinary dictatorship. It was about a remodeling of society: a remodeling where the dictates of central planning snuffed out the human spirit of initiative and enterprise; and a remodelling of the contract where a passive expectation of universal work and welfare was combined with a corrupting attitude of mind that encouraged individuals to cheat the system wherever they could."

He noted that social and economic transition is taking longer in Russia than elsewhere.

He said: "Communism dominated for three generations and market instincts have come more slowly. Organized crime has blighted many Russian and western efforts. Russian businessmen and foreign investors alike have been discouraged."

He added: "We must press on in helping Russia build up its institutions and create the framework for a diverse and successful economy."

He expressed hope that Russia and the International Monetary Fund can reach agreement on a new program of support before the G-8 summit in Cologne in June.

He said: "My message to the Russian people is this: we want to remain engaged, across the board. We have our differences, for example on issues of foreign policy."

He said: "Above all, the interests of the whole world will be advanced in the 21st century by having a confident, successful, prosperous and influential Russia."

Referring to the eastern countries, Blair said the work of transition is far from complete in any of the countries where the EBRD works. Recent turmoil in financial markets has had "a profound effect on capital flows and the strength of many countries' currencies. Globalization, as we have been reminded, brings risks as well as great benefits."

"But financial markets are still prepared to lend to emerging economies and countries in transition, provided those countries are committed to reform."

Blair said: "Transition countries should draw the obvious lesson. It is more crucial than ever that they take bold policy action to accelerate economic reform. And the benefits of reform must be made available to all sections of the community."