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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 March 2006, 12:14 GMT
Milosevic legacy
On Sunday12 March 2006 Andrew Marr interviewed Paddy Ashdown, former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Paddy Ashdown
Paddy Ashdown, former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina

ANDREW MARR: The trial of Slobodan Milosevic has meandered on in The Hague forever.

And in a way it was the tedium of justice after all the horror.

UN investigators had constructed a very elaborate case against him citing a string of different occasions when he'd ordered or instigated Serb troops to commit atrocities.

Now he's dead, what follows? Joining me from his home in the West Country is the former high representative of Bosnia for the United Nations Lord Ashdown, Paddy Ashdown.

Good morning again, Paddy. Can I ask you..

PADDY ASHDOWN: Good morning again Andrew.

ANDREW MARR: ...to try and paint a picture for us of where Milosevic stood in the story of modern Europe.

PADDY ASHDOWN: Well I think that's a very large canvas Andrew, but I think this region whose instability has twice brought waves of blood to Europe, you remember the first world war started there, was set aflame by two people, one was Franjo Tujman and the other was Slobodan Milosevic. Milosevic was the person who in a sense started it all, more a nationalist, an opportunist and a gambler.

Tujman used to say that without Milosevic he would never have existed but between the pair of them they instigated Europe's worst war since the 2nd world war in which, I don't know, arguably half a million people died and perhaps two million were driven from their homes. The waves of instability and the waves of refugees affected us all. And it challenged Europe, you remember that at that time Europe's leaders said this is the hour of Europe, Europe will prove itself. Well Europe didn't, Europe absolutely manifestly failed to come up to the mark.

ANDREW MARR: As indeed the international community failed to come up to the mark.

PADDY ASHDOWN: And the result was a catastrophe.

ANDREW MARR: Absolutely, speaking of the international community, I was going to ask, how much damage do you think it's caused that we don't have closure in this, that this very, very long international trial has ended, presumably with a heart attack in a prison cell?

PADDY ASHDOWN: Well it is closure of a sort. But of course it's not the closure most people wanted - most of his victims wanted, those of us who took part in his trial, and I gave evidence against him in the early stages of his trial and was about to do so again. It's not the closure we sought. Ironically of course, the grim reaper has taken both of these men, Tujman before he was actually indicted on the eve of his indictment, and Milosevic before his process had completed, from us before justice was delivered.

I don't think you will have full closure anyway, until his two primary henchmen, the people with blood more directly on their hands, Karodic and Radic are brought to justice and what I think this tells us is that they now must be brought to justice as quickly as possible and the west and especially the European Union should absolutely insist, without compromise, that that has to happen before Serbia Montenegro can complete its journey into Europe.

ANDREW MARR: And yet that causes a lot of problems inside Serbia, apparently all the papers this morning there are saying that Milosevic was poisoned and murdered in his cell by unknown shadowy figures at The Hague. There's clearly a lot of, sort of, nationalist suspicion and bitterness still swirling around there.

PADDY ASHDOWN: Well there is, and you know, who could be surprised at that ten years after such a devastating war. But you know, the number of people who support Milosevic, not many Serbs love The Hague because they regard it as being anti-Serb, without justification in my view. But the number of people who support Milosevic is now dwindling down to a tiny brunt. It will have, it will send some shockwaves through Serbia Montenegro.

But I don't anticipate that they will be long-term. It will introduce a period of some instability, those on the, those who wish to return to the past will seek to use it to destabilise, but I don't think it will have much effect, except to say that in, now we're reaching a delicate stage of the Kosova talks upon which indeed stability in the Balkans now depends.

And it will certainly be unhelpful in the short-term for that, but I don't anticipate that this will be long-term. As for the poisoning, well I rather doubt that the majority of newspapers are saying that at the moment, but if they are then I think that's just the usual Balkan conspiracy theorising. I would dismiss that, as indeed I think I would dismiss the idea that he committed suicide. You may know that both his mother and his brother, and his father, all committed suicide.

But on this occasion I think the strong likelihood is that this was natural causes. Incidentally, the very reason why The Hague tribunal was held up for so long was precisely not to put his health at risk, so it's a bit much to criticise The Hague for spending a long time in trying him and on the other hand criticise them for not looking after him properly.

ANDREW MARR: Sure, no, I can see that. Finally, are you convinced that Maladic and Karadic will eventually be apprehended and taken to trial and that, after that, at some point, Serbia will join the EU and become a relatively normal European country?

PADDY ASHDOWN: Yes, I am. I think that the movement of the Balkan region, Serbia Montenegro, Macedonia of course, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the reform path towards Europe now can't be stopped. There was a day when Milosevic, Karadic, Maladic could have stopped that, but they can slow the process up now, they could have done.

I don't believe that they can stop it, and I think that is the inevitable destination provided one thing happens, Andrew. And that is that Europe continues to maintain the open door. The Thessalonica promise that provided the magnetic pull, pulling these towards Europe, provided that magnetic pull is maintained then I think the Balkan regions will come to Europe.

But, if Europe changes its mind, if Europe decides that the time has come when we don't let any further nations into Europe, even a collection of nations within the boundaries of current Europe - if they change their mind then the process of stabilisation and peace in the Balkans could easily be reversed.

ANDREW MARR: Paddy Ashdown, Lord Ashdown, thank you very much indeed for joining us.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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