Updated: 27-Mar-2003 Transcripts


Press Briefing

held on 22 January 2003
at the NATO Press Centre in Skopje

Statement of Craig Ratcliff:
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to today’s press conference. Realizing that there are other things going on today, small crowd, I guess Bureau of Statistics has theirs going on right now, you said? OK, probably there will not be any surprising issues today. Certainly for NATO, I would like to reiterate that the security situation in itself is calm and stable. Certainly, it has changed a lot very the last year to year and a half to a much-improved situation. As we have said last week, we are very pleased with the progress of the liaison teams monitoring teams and what is going out on in the former crisis areas. And I am certainly aware that is in contrast with recent alarming statements from individuals attempting to create tension and heighten the awareness of threats. So knowing fairly well that it is fragile at times, we wanted to reiterate today that it would be appropriate for all individuals and groups to work with transparency and to redirect their efforts to the legitimate institutions and agencies within the Government and the international community. If an individual person or group has the best of interest on what is good for Macedonia then they would take the increased steps to work with diligence within the proper institutions vs. creating hysteria in the media. As I have said yesterday for Radio Free Europe, there is no threat externally from an armed force and no threat internally from an armed force but there are factors that create a higher tension level and awareness of the fragility of the security situation. Obviously there are criminal groups and organized crime and there are persons or groups that continue to disagree with the Peace Agreement and the implementation of the agreement. However, that within itself does not pose a threat to the security and stability. And we are working with the legitimate institutions to counter those factors. Another note is that I know there was a comment by a trade union of a sort that they would take action to counter threats, again, any action that is not within the legal framework of the institutions becomes an illegal act in itself. So those persons or groups that think that they should take it in their own hands, we encourage them to work through the institutions so that we all work together and not individually. I think actually that leads into Wolfgang, they had a nice conference this week that addressed those issues, right?

Statement of Wolfgang Greven:
That is correct. Dobar den from OSCE. What Craig was actually mentioning was a workshop that was held in Kumanovo about community policing last Saturday and the outcome actually proves what Craig said before maybe another point we saw there that was very encouraging is the increase of the image of and the trust in the police. So the theme of the workshop was community policing and actually 6 groups out of the former crisis areas, together with the police were working on answers to different questions on how to solve problems and how to address each other. As I have said before it was really encouraging to hear the “normal citizens”, how they think today of the work of the police and they were really asking from many regions that the police shows up more often. I think that the authorities from Macedonia are really making progress in this area. Also very encouraging was the word of one high-ranked police officer at the end of the workshop who was demanding very strongly that the police work should be separated completely from any politics. And I think that this is an idea that everybody who knows about the system of the democracy can only support. So, another point I have is called ‘Point’ and you know it, we are trying to have a very good timing, so actually today, it is still fresh, the newspaper that I mentioned at the last press conference done by students in Tetovo from all ethnicities, the first edition is coming out today, we have it here and we have a copy for you, afterwards after the press conference outside there, it is in Albanian and in Macedonian language. We are still very optimistic that in the new future also a Turkish edition will be published. Finally, again a tip for your agenda, we will have a media briefing on 31 January at 11.00 hrs and we will present to you the annual PDU, Police Development Unit report. It is actually only 12 hours after it will be presented to the MoI so, again you will get it fresh from the printer. About the location, we are not sure yet but we will let you know on time. And now, you will need a lot of patience because I know that Irena has a long statement.

Statement of Irena Guzelova:
My statement is going to be characteristically short. Basically just to mention the letter sent from Trajkovski to Solana in which he invites the EU to take over the international military operation here in Macedonia, to say that the letter was welcomed and has been well received in Brussels, and Foreign Ministers will discuss the eventual take-over in Brussels in Monday in their monthly meeting. Meanwhile, technical preparations in cooperation with NATO, following the Agreement last December on Berlin plus, are continuing.

Ratcliff: Subject to questions at this point. Just like you all said no questions….ooh, we have got one in the centre…

Question 1: Craig, I have got one for you. You said that NATO troops are shifting from Bunardzik, so can you provide us with any figures on how many NATO troops will remain in the coming period because shifting means reducing the troops, so how many troops plan to remain in Macedonia?

Ratcliff: Ok, how many people took the trip out to the Camp a couple of weeks ago and watched the convoys leave? Anybody from here? Irena went…What is leaving from Camp Fox are the remains of Task Force Fox. There is actually very few people out there. It is mostly equipment and leftover buildings and convexes there are few people still from the German contingent, there are two people from the Dutch contingent that are living in the hotel, still trying to clear accounts and move the equipment out…

Greven: If I may say, for the Germans, they are still living in tents…

Ratcliff: Well, the Dutch are smarter then…
The Dutch have more money…

So, now what are we supposed to say. Well… thank good we are not German…I didn’t say that…Anyway, they hope to be out sometime early to mid-February sometime to have everything out. I don’t think you will ever get rid yourself from the German influence, but transparently there will be none…As we can see, Wolfgang came back to hassle us, so….I think we said before roughly about 450 people, with the current mission, with NATO HQ, and that should be roughly about the same with the EU, if and when they take over, that the component will be roughly about the same, with the split between NATO and the EU. Certainly, a lot of what they are discussing now are components, personnel, structures, those things…what is required, what is not and the EU is taking a serious look at what they think they need to do their mission, bearing in mind that they will take over the operational, i.e. the tactical portion. And then of course, NATO would maintain a larger component of the advisory mission, NATO HQ, Senior Military Representative and those sorts of things, like we have been doing now along with the advisory group. And yeah, there will probably be Germans in that group too.

Just to add on to that, the actual eventual hand-over will be smooth and the EU and NATO share similar, the same actually, security assessment of the situation in Macedonia, so operationally on the ground, the actual operation will remain basically the same.

Ok, so one question, everybody happy? OK, I know you have got other things to do, thank you for coming, we still have coffee, tea and snacks and stuff, so feel free to stay and chat if you like.