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Updated: 27-Mar-2003 Transcripts

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Press Briefing

held on 5 February 2003
at the NATO Press Centre in Skopje

Statement of Craig Ratcliff:
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to today’s press conference. Sorry I am disappointed that our new system of questions is not going to work, we will figure it out for the future. I think the EU and I voted for it. A small list of things, I guess, today. In response to news reports, I think last week there were some issues about the training ranges. No, NATO is not trying to hide anything, we are compiling reports on when we trained and where, providing that to the MOD, so that they have accurate record as to what occurred since 1998 till today. The good news is – we are actually in a good position now to track the records and compile it for transparency purposes.

Reference to security situation: despite recent rumors, we continue to say that the security situation is still secure and stable. Actually, we compliment your legal institutions, and a direct compliment, in fact, to the people in Macedonia for working together to make Macedonia safer every day. Of course, this is partly with OSCE’s responsibility. The result of all that hard work will be that the legal institutions are finally focusing on normal duties. They are able to mobilize their fight against corruption. They are really working hard on community policing programs, community outreach programs are being activated, in being worked on, they are getting out there. One of the most positive sides is the recent raid recently on human trafficking and prostitution. This talks about fighting corruption. I remember they used to do raids and could not find anything. Of course, it is not good that they do a raid and actually find something, but it tells you that the insider corruption and information is disappearing, and they are able to fight the crime without being hampered from inside. And, of course, one of the more apparent sides is traffic control in metro areas, I know they are working hard – I am getting more parking tickets. But, I have to tell you that this does not mean that it is a perfect world. We know that there are still armed groups out there, posing problems, and the international community is working with the Government and the legal institutions to help fight those groups. But, as refers to stability and security, they do not pose a credible threat to the security situation. Of course, there have been communiqués and announcements recently; we would like to just remind people we consider those just a cover for normal criminal activities, such as racketeering. And we ask the people to help fight the racketeering problem by refusing to assist those people by paying protection money. The Prime Minister said, I think last week or the week before, that he ask you, the media, to expose corruption when you see it. We would like to ask you to do the same thing, expose crime and corruption when you see it, and we ask the people of Macedonia to help fight it by reporting it when they see it or experience it, and help the police do their job. By doing that, we will all work together to help make it to a little bit better every day. I think Wolfgang is going to tag along with some of those comments, and I think the meat of the conference will really be Clarisse.

Statement of Wolfgang Greven:
Well, thank you very much. Good morning. This is what I like about Craig starting this press conference, he obviously said everything I wanted to say as well. We really agreed to what was said before, and I would like to underline the great success the police so far has, within the last weeks, in fighting human trafficking. I think that is a very important point and that is why I would like to underline that as well, and in a very special way. I let me say another thing: we read in some media some reports, or, maybe, some comments, let me put it this way, about the security situation and some kind of spring offensive. Following our analysis we have by today – we do not see a spring offensive coming up. And probably we all together, the IC and, I think, the nationals as well, should not speak too much about it to bring probably some idea to people to do something like that, you know, if you always speak about something, you may bring the idea to people. We should not do this. And now, I would like to ask Clarisse if she can agree to that one.

Statement of Clarisse Pasztory:
I will therefore not talk on this subject because I fully agree with you. Good morning, anyway. From the point of view of the European Union, I think our first comment is that we obviously very much welcome the adoption of the Government’s Action Plan this Monday. I think we made it quite clear last week that we were very much looking forward to the adoption of this paper. So, we are very happy to have it in out hands now. We think this paper is an excellent basis, in fact, an excellent to do list which is to be elaborated on now. The three documents, i.e. the action plan on equitable representation, the action plan on decentralization and the list of other remaining outstanding legislation which needs to be amended is a recognition, I think, that a lot has been achieved in the implementation of the Framework Agreement, but there is also a lot of work which remains to be done. We now hope that we will soon have the date for the new party leader meeting of the framework signatories, which was agreed in December. We think that such a meeting will be a very useful occasion to try to agree on a timetable on further procedures, and I think that everyone in this country agreed that the question is not whether to fully implement the Framework Agreement but simply technically how and within which timeframe. From the side of the European Union, we can assure you that we ad the IC as a whole will continue to remain an active partner in this process and the same will be requested and required by all local parties concerned. Secondly, I would shortly like to touch on a project which was launched by the European Reconstruction Agency yesterday, which is a 500,000 Euros programme dealing with the steel sector in Macedonia. This project is to support the steel industry, to work with the Ministry of Economy and to prepare national strategy on how to support the steel companies to improve their export possibilities and to raise the production levels to European standards. We consider this a very important project, which shows the efforts of the international community, and of the European Union in particular, to foster and to help the economy of this country, and I think it clearly shows the commitment of the European Union to Macedonia as a whole, all aspects of daily life, political and economic life. And I think it was Ambassador Butler who said last week who said that this country certainly needs an economic spring offensive, economic spring projects, and we certainly agree on that, and we very much hope that this very big project is going to be a bit and a part of these effort. This is it from me today. Thank you very much.

Ratcliff:
So, I think we are open for serious questions only.

Question 1:
Cvetanka, from MIA. First, I would like to ask Craig, whether you had breakfast this morning? – only serious questions.

Ratcliff:
OK, I do not think we want to go there, do we?

Journalist: A question for Mr. Greven: you mentioned that so far you don’t think a spring offensive is going to take place. What kind of a spring offensive are you talking about? Do you have any information that there may be a spring offensive?

Greven:
No. That was my clear statement. But, I said before, we read something in some newspapers, like I think today it was in Dnevnik, an article speculating about something like that happen. That is why we state very clearly that at the moment we do not see this.

Journalist:
So, does that mean that you deny Dnevnik?

Greven:
Well, I can’t deny or say “yes” to what Dnevnik wrote. That was done by a journalist. I can only say – we do not see it at the moment. And, if my information is right, that article in Dnevnik was following another article that was published, I think, two days ago, in an Albanian language newspaper. EU has a right word for that, it was some kind of a recycling problem.

Question 2:
Bearing in mind that the representatives of the international community did not seem very convincing, I would like to ask Mr. Ratcliff: do you still remain on the position you had before about the number of extremist groups and the number of members within those extremist groups, or is there some enlargement? Could you tell us the number you had?

Ratcliff:
Actually, Tino, we never gave numbers. You know, every once in a while we read in the papers about another group that calls itself something, and they are here to do something; never mentioned numbers, do not have any idea. We said before – we know that there are different groups out there, they appear in Tetovo, Kumanovo, they cause problems for local citizens, but the MoI is working to address them. I think it is certainly worth your time and mine to go back to the legal institutions, to the MoI, and address it a little more deeply to see what they are planning to try to address that situation. I think the OSCE is working with the MoI and other groups are working very hard to find a way to solve that problem.

Question 3:
Clarisse this is going to be a question for you. Can you give a precise number of the amount of money for the project? It was 5,000 euros or…

Pasztory:
500,000 euros.

Journalist:
Oh, 500,000. Because the translation was 5,000 euros, so we think it’s going to be a support for the raisers. Craig, a question for you: Having in mind that many of the victims of the human trafficking said that a lot of internationals, meaning NATO people have been involved into the prostitution, do you have any data about…, or is there any case that a NATO soldier was involved into the prostitution in this country?

Ratcliff:
The short answer is: no. But, I know where the question comes from. I get calls all the time about the international community supporting this, supporting that. The short answer and the correct answer is: no.

Greven:
If I may add something to that concerning BiH, where I was last year. The same question came up there, also based on rumors as was proved afterwards, there were no soldiers involved in anything like that.

Question 4:
A question for Wolfgang. Craig said that OSCE is working together with the Ministry of Interior concerning the criminal activities, so I would like are there any more precise information about where or how many people you are dealing with?

Greven:
Actually, you have to see that the OSCE, like the other IC institutions, of course, have no authority in this country, so what we do together with the MoI, who is definitely in lead of those, what we can do is give advise, and, of course, monitor the situation very closely. And as far as we can say it by today, we see real increase in the professionalism and in the work of the Macedonian police. One proof of that is what I mentioned before what we support very much is the success the police so far has concerning anti-trafficking.

Question 5:
So, just one clearing out of the matters – the text that was published today in Dnevnik is not by a Dnevnik journalist, but it was taken from IWPR, which is an international organization, supported by the international community.

Ratcliff:
Yes, I was going to mention that earlier, that I knew it came from War and Peace, but they got it from somewhere else.

Greven:
Whoever the source is, I can only speak for the OSCE, and our position is – to the best of our knowledge, we don’t see a spring offensive.
Pasztory: I have read this piece, as well. Everything I have read in IWPR is something that has already appeared in newspapers here in Macedonian or Albanian language newspapers. There was not a single line in it that was new. And let me spell it out for you: there will not be a new war.

Ratcliff:
Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for coming.