Dáil Éireann - Volume 567 - 29 May, 2003

Written Answers. - Foreign Conflicts.

  98. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the internal security situation in Serbia; if the state of emergency imposed after the assassination of a person (details supplied) remains in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14874/03]

  Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): On 4 February the state union of Serbia and Montenegro was proclaimed in succession to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Agreement on the formation of the state union was brokered by the EU. It supported the establishment of the new federal institutions and the implementation of wide-ranging political and economic reforms. The stability of the new structures was seriously challenged by the tragic assassination of the Prime Minister of Serbia, Zoran Djindjic, on 12 March. [1718]In response a state of emergency was declared in Serbia by the acting President, Natasa Micic but it was lifted on 22 April.

  It is clear that the perpetrators of the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic were the enemies of democracy, reform and human rights in Serbia. With strong public backing, the new Serbian Government of Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic, and the federal authorities, reacted by showing their determination to continue with the reform process, to step up the fight against organised crime and to implement major reform of the defence and military structures. Considerable progress has been made in stabilising Serbia. On 12 May, during my visit to Belgrade and Podgorica, I met federal President Svetozar Marovic and Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic. I welcomed the progress which had been made in the reform process and in the fight against organised crime, and the signs of an improvement in the level of co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

  All of the political leaders I met in Serbia and Montenegro emphasised their commitment to the pursuit of the wide-ranging reform process which is required for the consolidation of democracy and stability and for the development of closer relations with the EU. I assured them of the EU's support. The stability of Serbia and Montenegro and of the western Balkans region depends on further progress in the implementation of political, economic and administrative reforms, and on the development of closer regional economic co-operation.

  The EU is taking the lead in the promotion of this process, primarily through the stabilisation and association process. The EU-Western Balkans Summit in Thessalonika on 21 June will be an important point in the development of our relations with the region. I hope that it will result in a clear political message to the people of the western Balkans that the future of the region lies in eventual integration into European structures, on the basis of clear and objective economic and political criteria, to be met by the Governments of the countries concerned. Ireland will play its part in the development of this relationship, especially during our EU Presidency in the first half of 2004.

  Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 6.

  100. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the recent discovery of more than 300 bodies in the east Congo town of Bunia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14859/03]

  Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): I share the Deputy's concern about recent reports of the discovery of large graves in the vicinity of Bunia in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I believe that he is referring to the appalling massacre of civilians that took place on 3 April in the area of Drodro, near [1719]Bunia. In the past I have condemned this massacre and I condemn it again today.

  A UN team, comprising representatives of the UN peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, are conducting an investigation to determine responsibility for this shocking act. The team is expected to report on its findings shortly. The UN will consider its report and Ireland will pay close attention to its follow-up.

  This Government continues to use its influence with our EU partners and in the international community to ensure that impunity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is addressed. At the 59th Session of the Commission on Human Rights, which completed deliberations recently, Ireland took a strong line on the need to deal with impunity in the DRC, particularly on the importance of investigating serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The Commission adopted, by unanimity, a resolution on the human rights problem there. The resolution, inter alia, calls on the DRC's Government to take specific measures to put an end to impunity and to ensure that those responsible for human rights violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian law are brought to justice in accordance with due process.

  Question No. 101 answered with Question No. 13.

  Question No. 102 answered with Question No. 11.