Updated: 21 May 1999 Speeches


21 May 1999

Press Conference

by Jamie Shea and the Albanian Prime Minister, Mr. Majko

Jamie Shea: Ladies and Gentlemen, as you can see we have our video link with Tirana and Prime Minister Majko established. I would like to welcome the Prime Minister, to thank him very much for agreeing to participate in this video link with NATO Headquarters this afternoon, and I would also now like to invite him to say some opening remarks. Prime Minister, once again our sincere thanks to you and may I ask you please to speak to the journalists here in Brussels.

Prime Minister: I don't think that there is anything new I can tell journalists at the moment. I would just like to say that the Albanian people, although the word people is a bit too general, but in this concrete case for the dramatic situation we are in and the word Albania is used in at the moment, the government which I am leading is very much interested in finding a swift solution to the conflict in the region which means the defence of universal rights set up since the Second World War. It is also linked with the five conditions of NATO.

I am mentioning this because we are interested in an end to the conflict and also in full guarantees so that the Kosovar Albanians can return to their homes. Any discussion about a solution of the Kosovo problem has to be linked to the return of all the Kosovo refugees to their homes, so that they can return quietly, in peace and institutions must be created for co-existence. What Milosevic has done to the Albanian population up to now is no less than a humanitarian catastrophe. Everyone hopes at the moment that the NATO bombings will be brought to a successful conclusion, that the five conditions will be fulfilled, otherwise it's barbarity which is going to have the victory. I am willing to answer your questions and if you pose specific questions we will avoid rhetoric, unneeded rhetoric. Albania is paying a very high cost for this crisis. Albania is also the country which is supporting the NATO bombing until the conditions are fulfilled. Albania supports these conditions.

Jamie Shea: Prime Minister, thank you very much indeed for those opening remarks. I will now ask the journalists to come to the microphone and put their questions to you.

Margaret Evans (Canadian Broadcasting): Good evening. I just wonder if you could give us your impression about the unity of the NATO Alliance here in Brussels. There is a lot of speculation that some nations are proposing a pause in the bombing. How does that strike you? Do you think that this is something that NATO countries are actually supporting? Do you think that there is a possibility that they would actually offer Milosevic a pause in the bombing before he has agreed to their conditions?

Prime Minister: if there is any (Brussels line dropped out) between the members or any different elements in the NATO position, I don't think it has to do with a stop in the bombing. We have to be realistic though. The new Europe which we want to create means that we are living with the past. Europe is a product of its own past. Europe didn't just start now but what we want is that the conflict be brought to a swift end as soon as possible. We want a political solution and we have to take Milosevic into consideration as a factor. We know his position since Dayton and things are repeating themselves. The expression 'no losers, no winners' is a well known expression. We are fighting barbarity and if we have a no loser, no winner situation this means that we have to be very careful to see what is happening in NATO with the very unity or a cleft in NATO. It is also linked to specific political factors in government. The balance of the coalition has to be maintained. We have to see that NATO defends its position. Albanians understand very well what we mean by a cleft. We read beyond the titles of the newspapers on the first page, the front page titles. We know what is realistic and we have understood that NATO is resolved to have its five conditions fulfilled. Otherwise things look very suspicious, not only for the Albanians but I think it goes beyond the Albanians. It Brussels line dropped out) with all the Americans and all the Europeans. We have common values, not only Albanians but all Europeans have common values. We are a normal part of Europe but we are suffering more from this division.

Question: Prime Minister, recently the Serb Army are shelling the Albanian territory by the grenade. What kind of security and what do NATO promise to you that it will not be repeated, this kind of provocation from a Serb side. And the second question, how are you and your government coping with the influx of the Albanians, first by Milosevic's regime coming in Albania? Thank you.

Prime Minister: We regard NATO as a partner, first of all, primarily and we know what our duties are. The duties of the Albanian government are to defend its own sovereignty when the sovereignty is being infringed upon. The border has normalised recently, there are certain operations under way and we have responded in the proper way. The Albanian Army has responded properly. I can inform you that two times Albanian tanks have been forced to stay, to leave their tunnels where they were stored to give a proper response to the Serbs. And the Serbs for their part retreated in panic and with losses and left their equipment behind them. So we think we are being efficient in defending ourselves and we certainly do not want to give this responsibility to NATO. It is not NATO's responsibility, the defence of Albanian territory. NATO is our main partner and we have given NATO the military bases it needs on our territory, we are co-operating very well to deal with this humanitarian catastrophe. I would like to stress this. NATO here in Albania has a very special humanitarian aspect. It is playing a very important humanitarian role. It is not in Albania at the moment to defend the country against Serb attacks. The Albanian Army is in a position, efficiently, to deal with the problem and it has good moral standards and is able to defend Albanian sovereignty at the moment.

Jamie Shea: Prime Minister, could I ask you also to comment on the refugee situation in your country which was the second question?

Prime Minister: At the moment in Albania we have about half a million refugees, that is an increase of 15% to our population but we are aware that we must pay the cost. NATO and UNHCR are factors which are helping to preserve stability in the region at the moment. That is where our responsibilities come up with an answer to our problems, we would be faced with regional chaos which Milosevic has caused as part of his strategy. He wants to include Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro in the chaos and then go on to Italy and Greece. This we have understood and we have managed to deal with the question, it is an Albanian wonder that we have come up with the response.

Question: The Russian's position during the G8 discussions concerning 7 points or 5 NATO points left a lot of people to think that Russia is kind of interlocutor of Milosevic because we don't see any big differences on those positions. Do you think that to those 5 points, to those 7 principles, the Albanians from Kosovo should have a part to discuss the modalities of those 5 or 7 principles?

Prime Minister: I think that the representatives of Kosovo have given their word on the 5 points, have commented on them and all the countries in the region have expressed their views on the 5 NATO conditions. I am convinced that if we reach a general consensus in the region and within the Albanian community, the Kosovar Albanian community, then this consensus will be based on the 5 conditions. Now as to Russia's role, we very much appreciate Russia's role as an interlocutor but up to that level, up to the extent that the foreign political crisis in Russia not get involved in the policies of NATO, in the Western community. I hope there is understanding on this from Russian representatives of Russia that they represent a very important factor in negotiations but they are in a very difficult position to play the role of an interlocutor with Milosevic. When the court in The Hague is starting proceedings for war crimes, for events in Kosovo it should be clear, at least I hope it's clear, that Milosevic cannot play both roles, cannot be in both positions, he cannot sign a peace agreement and at the same time be sentenced by the Criminal Court in the Hague and for this reason we think that the strategy of NATO must be accepted by Milosevic. He must accept the 5 conditions, he must accept the 5 conditions. This is a logical strategy which excludes any doubt about the values we are fighting for, both the Americans and the Europeans are fighting for.

Question (Andrew Nagorski, Newsweek): Prime Minister, if NATO decides that the only way to get Milosevic to accept the 5 conditions is a ground war, will Albania support it and allow Albania to be used as a staging ground.

Prime Minister: I would like to remind you that my profession is not that of a General or a high NATO Commander. I am only a politician and I don't like to get too involved in the plans of NATO Generals. I would only like to stress what my parliament resolved and what my government agreed upon. We support all operations, all NATO operations, to re-establish peace in the region.

Question (Julie McCarthy, National Public Radio, US): Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to close by returning to a question that began the Press Conference. Do you fear that the emergence of all these varied ideas from the Italian plan to the British push on certain issues, to the German rejection of some things that the British have said and the French concerns about them, do you feel that that has put NATO unity at risk and do you also worry that they are as much a desire to end this conflict quickly as they are a realisation by NATO governments that they cannot, within their own public opinion, sustain prolonged airstrikes?

Prime Minister: I will try to give you an open answer to your question. I think we should be worried about the difference in views within NATO. If the Generals themselves were of different views on NATO strategy, up to the President , then we should be worried, if it were the Generals. There are differences in political declarations between politicians. They change from time to time, even within a 24 hour period, they change. I hope and am convinced that NATO itself is not divided but allow me, if you will, to talk about the rhetorics of division. There are various views on stopping the bombings which have been expressed and on starting negotiations for a political solution. With the information that I have as the Prime Minister of Albania, I think we should be very careful about it because stopping the bombing would improve the situation for the other side. Those proposing the stop see what would happen to the Serb side or let's say they hope that the Serbian side would react with moderation for a political solution. That's what they're hoping and I think that things would then turn out well. There are representatives of certain democratic countries who think that a political solution, that sitting down at the table is the best solution at the moment because Milosevic isn't giving up, but I would like to draw your attention to another fact. What would happen if we stopped the bombing, what would happen in Albania and in Macedonia and in Montenegro? We would be in danger of a Lebanonisation of the Balkans. Stopping the bombing without a firm conclusion or a firm solution would mean that the balance for all of the Balkans, that there would be a political vacuum in the Balkans, there would be questions without answers and, as I said before, this would risk the basic values of the Western world. I appreciate the fact that people want a swift solution but I think at the moment the NATO Generals are doing a very good job at the moment. Their logic is slower, their strategy is slower than that of some European politicians but it is clear and it is (Brussels line dropped out) to a conclusion. This war will bring about losers and winners.

Jamie Shea: Prime Minister, I would like to thank you most warmly for giving up time this afternoon to be with us. Thank you very much indeed and we look forward to seeing you here at NATO Headquarters very soon indeed.

Jamie Shea: Ladies and Gentlemen, very briefly, I promised you after the video link with the Prime Minister a couple of brief remarks on the current NATO activities vis a vis the 7 neighbouring countries. As you know, at 3.00 this afternoon we had the first ever Ambassador level meeting with the 7 Ambassadors here in Brussels (Brussels line dropped out) Slovenia, Bosnie-Herzegovina, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania were at the regular NATO Council table. Of course there was, as you recall, a summit of NATO and the leaders of the 7 neighbouring countries in Washington just a few days ago.

As you know, the main message of that meeting in Washington, which for me was one of the highlights of the summit, was that we are all in the same boat, both NATO and those countries, or to quote Winston Churchill about a different situation but still appropriate "either we hang together or we all hang separately".

We share the objectives of ensuring that Milosevic meets the five conditions and that again was restated by all of the participants at today's meeting. NATO welcomes the solidarity of those 7 states, solidarity in terms of absorbing a large number of refugees, particularly in two of those states, and you have just heard the Prime Minister describe the situation in his own country. We realise the enormous burdens, but at the same time appreciate the fact that they have opened their borders and that they have been prepared to settle on a temporary basis those refugees, and NATO countries are trying to do what they can to help them with that burden, not just in terms of the financial contributions or the support of NATO troops, but also in terms of temporarily evacuating some of those refugees on to our own territories. For example, NATO countries have taken over 50,000 of those refugees already.

Secondly, we appreciate the fact that they have opened their air space for NATO operations. We appreciate the fact that they have made in some cases again their territory available for NATO troops to be based there in conjunction with our operations, and finally we appreciate their economic solidarity, particularly in terms of implementing the international sanctions against Belgrade, even at economic cost to themselves and we are not trying to neglect the true costs, we realise those, and in terms of agreeing to go along with implementing the oil embargo. It is very important that those neighbouring states implement that oil embargo and ensure as much as they can that no illicit activities take place that would undermine that oil embargo, that is a key measure in bringing this conflict to an early and successful conclusion.

Now as all of you know, what we want is to use the crisis in Kosovo, as tragic as it has been, in an ultimately constructive way, not just for Yugoslavia, not just for Kosovo but for the region as a whole, in other words to use this as a turning point in constructing a new regional co-operative framework in south eastern Europe which would replace the disintegration and the sectarianism coming from Yugoslavia over the last decade, replace that with a region based on stability, prosperity and tolerance for the different groups that live there.

And as you know, the starting point in developing this strategy will come next Thursday with the conference in Bonn, organised by the German government as the Presidency of the European Union, to design a Stability Pact. That will have three tables: an economic table; a democratisation table; and a security table. As was stressed by a number of Ambassadors today, the results of this conference should not be merely conceptual in terms of producing a kind of architectural blueprint for the region, above all the emphasis has got to be on practical near term things that can begin immediate economic and democratic reconstruction as soon as the Kosovo crisis is over. And again it is very important, and this was also stressed today, that the countries of the region participate actively in devising that programme. It is not something that should carry a kind of "Made in Brussels" label and be offered on a take it or leave it basis. These countries, as the primary beneficiaries of the programme, but also as the primary shapers of the programme, have to become directly involved in that, they have to take the process forward. In fact although this has often been called a Marshall Plan which came from one country, the title may not be exactly right because several countries will be involved in this reconstruction effort, but one aspect of the Marshall Plan was stressed today which we need to preserve, and that is the idea of the countries of the region working with each other, first and foremost, to take this forward. As you remember, the Marshall Plan was predicated on the notion of regional cooperation had to precede the granting of aid and that is important.

Now in this effort as it starts to be devised, NATO has a role to play. The idea is that each institution should act according to the principle of comparative advantage, each would contribute what it does best. And at NATO over the last few weeks we have been developing a number of ideas that we intend to put forward next week at the Bonn Conference, areas where we believe the Alliance can play a role. The first area of course is in developing the practice of regular consultations with the 7 neighbouring countries. We can do this in three ways: firstly through the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, although two countries are not currently involved in that, but the other five are; secondly, through regular meetings of the group of 7 and NATO which we could turn into a regional security forum for cooperation, a regular forum for discussion of security issues between NATO and these countries; and finally, 19+1 consultations, and in the last few weeks we have in fact had 4 such 19+1 consultations with Albania, another one next Tuesday, as you know, Bulgaria, Romania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, particularly to be able to focus to in depth on the particular security situation of one of these countries.

The second area where we can hopefully make a contribution is in fostering arms control and confidence and security building measures in the region where NATO and the OSCE can play a role. The OSCE has the current responsibility to do this under the terms of the Dayton peace agreement, but NATO can make a contribution based on its experience into this process. And Article 5 of the Dayton peace agreement does mandate the development of a regional stabilisation system to promote transparency in military activities, to promote the type of restraints, the type of military confidence building measures that have been important elsewhere in Europe.

A third area is to use our Partnership for Peace but focus it increasingly on the specific needs of the neighbouring states, particularly as a result of the current crisis, and yesterday we had a meeting in this spirit with Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia where we looked at certain areas such as military medicine, safety of ammunition, storage, the training of border guards, the development of a civil emergency planning system which can be of immediate use.

Another idea is to use PFP to promote regional cooperation in security issues among the states themselves with a NATO input. For example development of more military exercises involving the neighbouring states and NATO countries; the formation of multinational peace keeping units in which these countries could be involved; or the development of Partnership for Peace training centres located in the area and which of course could also help to organise a permanent calendar of co-operative military activities.

The other thing is that NATO and its member states can set up a clearing house mechanism to better co-ordinate the military assistance that we give to these countries to avoid duplication and to make sure that the real needs are those that are most urgently addressed and the more long term issues secondarily.

We also have at the moment a bilateral programme with a country that is not in the Partnership for Peace, which is Bosnia Herzegovina. It is a security cooperation programme involving training courses and visits and security exchanges and that could be offered to other countries of the region in due course as well.

And finally, we want to promote still further and begin in earnest the MAP, the Membership Action Programme, the Membership Action Plan, which was endorsed at the Washington Summit to help these countries that aspire to NATO membership and virtually all of those that are in PFP do at the moment, to prepare themselves for the time when they are able to join the Alliance, and again that preparation began yesterday with Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. So those are some of the ideas where our thinking can take us at the moment and which we will be introducing at Bonn next Thursday as part of the NATO contribution to this overall effort.

So that is what I have to say and I will look forward to seeing you all tomorrow morning at 10.30 am for the usual overnight up-date, the usual briefing at 3.00 pm. So those of you who don't come, I wish you a very pleasant weekend. Those of you who do, see you in the morning.

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