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Updated: 27-Mar-2003 Transcripts

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Press Briefing

held on 29 January 2003
at the NATO Press Centre in Skopje

Statement by Per Stromsmoen:
Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to today’s press conference. You might be surprised that Craig is not on stage today, but even he needs some relief, you know, newly married and everything…
For those of you that have been around a while, I might be a familiar face, but, I will introduce myself. My name is Per Stromsmoen, and I am a Major with the Norwegian Army. I came to this beautiful country 11 months ago, and my work has from the beginning been here with the Allied Press and Information Centre.

I have really enjoyed my stay here for these months, and everywhere I went I have been really welcomed. You have so much to offer, so much to be proud of, and I am honoured to be a guest in this country. I sure hope, and that would make me feel good, that when I go back to my home country, my stay here with my colleagues in NATO and the International Community, has made a difference for somebody.

So much for me…The security situation is calm and stable in itself, and the Field Liaison Monitoring Teams are still making progress. During last week, the commander of “Allied Harmony”, Lieutenant General Cigna, visited several places in the former crisis areas, and he was very well received. However, it is a sad fact that the last week has distinguished itself with several incidents of violent and brutal criminal acts that we rather would have been without.

Camp Fox in Bunardzik is now history. The last container was shipped out from there yesterday. The ARM will take over whatever is useful from back there. The company will come in and put all things back, how it was from before the Task Force Fox came there. And with this I will pass it over to Wolfgang.

Statement by Wolfgang Greven:
Good morning. I have a chance for you after the press conference or maybe I will have a chance to see Craig as well. I think his honeymoon is beautiful, isn’t it? Wasn’t he married six weeks ago? But maybe the outcome…but what is this lady doing with him that he is ill now?

OK, we have today only three short announcements. Unfortunately, we have to postpone the announced presenting of the Police Development Unit annual report, due to technical problems that came up. So, we will try now to solve those as fast as possible and then we would come back to you to present this report.

Then, another announcement concerning this Saturday, there will be a press opportunity at 17:00 hrs, here at the “Continental Hotel”, after another workshop organised by the OSCE on community policing.
Secondly, just a reminder, Tuesday, 4 February, 11:00 hrs, at “La Café” we will have a press opportunity for you, but I really have to state it – off records, with the head of our Rule of Law Department. Both invitations would get to you today, in the late afternoon, so you will have more details about what is going on.
So, I hand over to Clarisse.


Statement by Clarisse Pasztory:
Good morning, I am happy to be back with you again as well. I am covering for Irena today, who is just away in Brussels for a day, so she would be back with you soon. I would like to shortly touch upon two issues today: For one, we would like to turn the focus on the implementation of the Framework Agreement. We understand that due to some technical problems, technical issues, the Framework Action Plan was not adopted at the last government session. But we expect that any remaining obstacles will be resolved until next Monday and that the Action Plan can passed by Government in its next session.

As you will remember, after the meeting on 26 December, it was agreed that the Plan was to basically consist of three parts: plan on decentralisation, a strategy for the implementation of equitable representation and a list of other outstanding legislation in relation to the Framework Agreement. We strongly believe that such an Action Plan would serve as a good and necessary basis to set the priorities (inaudible) in relation to the Framework Agreement and that his paper should serve as the basis for a new round of party leader discussion, which have been scheduled and announced for early February. So, we hope that there will be not any further delays in order to be able to get on with the work.

In other words, we would like to see soon some action and this action should be based on a plan, thus we need this Action Plan.

Secondly, I would like to shortly inform you on where we stand on the issue of EU forces. As you are probably well aware, the EU Foreign Ministers on Monday took a joint decision, giving the legal basis for a take over of the current “Allied Harmony” mission. NATO has been invited to agree to appoint its Deputy Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, Admiral Reiner Feist, as EU operation commander.

Meanwhile, the preparations for this military operation are continuing and will continue to take place in full cooperation with the Macedonian authorities as well as with NATO. And the EU Council also stressed that this planned take over of the mission by the European Union certainly underlines ours, the European Union’s commitment to the stability and security of your country, alongside our determination to assist you in your efforts towards European integration by the Stabilisation and Association Process.

This is it from me for today, but of course if you have any questions, we are open to answer them. Thank you very much.

Stromsmoen:
We are open for questions.

Question 1:
A question for Clarisse. The negotiations between NATO and EU are still underway, and according to news agencies, some issues still haven’t been solved, such as the exchange of intelligence information. Can these negotiations delay the arrival of the European forces and how would it affect Macedonia if a solution is not found soon?

Pasztory:
Well, as you said, I think there are basically some technical and very general issues which need to be resolved since this is the first time that such a thing will take place. In fact, I am convinced that solutions to these remaining issues are going to be found soon. As you are well aware, currently there is no concrete target date for the takeover, anyway, so it is not stated as from 1, 15, 27 whatever March. It simply says early takeover. So, we are talking about an early takeover of the current NATO mission, whose current mandate goes until the end of June. Which means, I think, there is no danger whatsoever that there might be a kind of security gap. We expect the takeover somewhere around mid March, maybe early April, but these are sort of (inaudible) that we are talking about.

Question 2:
Are you satisfied with the solution of the “Lions” issue?

Pasztory:
You is who?

Journalist:
The three of you, whoever wants to answer.

Pasztory:
Basically, I think we all agreed that a solution must be found. I think the international community has never hidden its wish that the “Lions” as unit should be disbanded, we have said it quite often. We, therefore, of course, principally welcome as we think the good government decision and solution. As always in life, some of the devil lays in the detail. But so far from what we have seen as European Union and the solution, I thin the negotiations and the discussions are going in the right direction and basically we welcome this development.

Stromsmoen:
We are happy that the roadblock situation was solved in a peaceful way. The “Lions” thing is an internal, government’s decision, but we hope that this decision will contribute to the continuing process of stability of the situation in the country.

Greven:
Well, I think I can agree to what my colleagues said before. And I would like to underline as well that I think it is a very smart decision to look now into the contracts and, of course, also into the records of the members of “Lions” at the moment, so that especially those who have a very well education and a contract that is proved to be a real contract, and those who have no criminal record, as it looks at the moment get the chance to be employed with forces. Because we think that also in the “Lions” there was also quite some experience and some good knowledge. But as I said before, this is mainly a thing for the Macedonian authorities.

Question 3:
A question for Clarisse Pasztory. Has the EU gone through the Ohrid Agreement once again and looked at the issue of using Albanian in the work of the parliamentary commissions?

Pasztory:
As you are well aware, this question is currently under review also with Parliament. In this regard I think you don’t have to look only at the Framework Agreement, but at the rules of the assembly, because in this case, the Framework Agreement has already been transformed into Macedonian law. Some of these outstanding issues are therefore a question of legal interpretation, for which we are of course willing to help if we are asked to do so. Some of the issues are not covered, neither by the Framework Agreement nor by the law in one way or the other, which means they are not explicitly forbidden nor explicitly permitted, which means you simply need to discuss it and find a practical solution (inaudible) everyone. Particularly I hope that the voters and the electorate of the Republic of Macedonia are going to be happy with. After all, the Parliament represents the will and the voice of the people, so a solution should be found which represents the will and the voice and the need of the population. And I am sure it will.

Journalist:
Which part of the population?

Pasztory:
I only know one population of the Republic of Macedonia. Various people, but one population. Unitary state.

Question 4:
Clarisse, this is going to be a question for you regarding the European forces deployment. Have you started any talks about the practical deployment together with NATO, how many forces, what capacities are going to be used in the country and things like that.

And the second question for Wolfgang. There have been 20 murders in the country since the beginning of the year. What is your comment, are there a lot of activities of the criminals in the country? The second part of the question – there has been a report by Amnesty International for the Macedonian police, that it used ill treatment and torture regarding the detainees. Have you any report on this and what can you say about that?

Pasztory:
As for your question regarding the EU forces, the answer is yes, practical planning has, of course, started. And of course, this, as well, is done jointly between EU and NATO and also in contact with the Macedonian authorities. So, of course, this practical planning of the operation, as you can imagine, has to include things like location, where and whatever, so very much technical issues. This is ongoing and I do not see any major obstacles there at all. Basically, and I think what is really important is that there is a change in the command and in the…but basically, both the people on the ground and the mandate of the mission would remain the same. Which means there is no need to invent great number of new things, because all of the things that are needed practically already exist, now only needs to be resolved how does the EU fit in what already exists here in Macedonia.

Greven:
Well, concerning the 20 murders, I could not confirm at the moment the number, but I think you are right approximately. I think nobody can deny that we have seen since the beginning of the year, not a dramatic, but we see an increase of this kind of crimes. Let me state very clearly that we think that, at least to the best of our knowledge, they only have criminal background, there is no political background behind it. That does not make it better, that is for sure. I think there have to be done some analyses what is the reason for this. But, as the year is young, let’s see. We sure work on that, as well, and I am sure that the MoI also is checking what is behind it.

Concerning the report of Amnesty International, we received it, I think, yesterday or the day before yesterday, we read it, but concerning OSCE, we do not have information like that. As you probably know, especially our rule of law unit, is monitoring things like that very closely and every citizen of this country who thinks that he is badly treated by the police, has different possibilities to make that public. One is, of course, to inform OSCE, but there is also the institution of the ombudsman, and I really would ask everybody who gets in bad touch, let me put it that way, with the police for what reasons ever and who is treated like that to contact these organisations and they may help him and I think they may also help then this country by solving problems like that, if they are there.

More general, we can say, as our observation or monitoring shows us very clearly, is that the behaviour and the work of the police is getting more professional every day.
That answers your question?

Journalist:
The report of Amnesty International says that the torture was triggered by ethnic motives and that there were also racism elements. Can you say that the Amnesty International report is exaggerated?

Greven: I would not like to judge about this report. The only thing I can say, and that is for sure, we do not have any reports like that. Maybe Amnesty International was contacted by these people and that is why they wrote it. This is, I would not say speculation, this is what I think, because we at OSCE did not get actually any reports like that. And to the best of my knowledge, also the ombudsman of this country did not.

Stromsmoen:
Any more questions?
OK, that concludes the press conference and feel free to take some refreshments. Have a nice day.