on 12 February 2003
at the NATO Press Centre in Skopje
Statement by Craig Ratcliff:
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to today’s press conference. Obviously,
a small crowd, other important things going on today. Obviously, we have
got the visit with the Minister of Foreign Affairs over at “Gazela”
this afternoon. Certainly we will wait from here and go up there. Anybody
in attendance today need a ride…Nobody? OK.
A lot of rumours this week again about proposed activities and actions
in the future. I think the other people on stage have other things to
say on that, but suffice it to say, despite rumours to the contrary, the
LM teams or liaison monitoring teams of the NATO contingent out in the
former crisis area continue to routinely patrol in the Tetovo area and
the outlying villages, despite what some rumours have been saying. Continue
to support the legal institutions in their fight against corruption and
crime and armed groups and other suspicious characters out in the former
crisis areas. I certainly applaud the Ministry of Interior’s recent
actions to fight crime and corruption, and certainly I fully support the
minister’s comments early this week, and the Prime Minister’s
comments on their campaign against crime and corruption.
I think tomorrow there is a visit to Pristina sponsored by the Ministry
of Defence along with the group going up there for a visit by the minister.
I think they have a bus scheduled, we will provide an escort officer to
go on that bus with you guys, if anybody from here is going, to facilitate
a smooth transition to Kosovo. I think, Irina you asked me yesterday about
“Rapid Guardian”. I think they are having a close up conference
Tuesday, at their regular press conference. It is actually on Saturday,
but they will do the thing on Tuesday, and if anybody is interested in
going, we will try to work something to get you up there as well.
OK, I guess I will end up with a question before I pass it to Wolfgang.
Does anybody shop at the big Vero? Wednesday and Thursday, to be exact.
OK, well, I was just curious.
Wolfgang, the floor is yours.
Statement by Wolfgang Greven:
Thank you. The OSCE is organising training on strategic planning for six
municipalities in the Kicevo valley on Friday and Saturday in Ohrid. The
seminar, a joint collaboration with the Canadian Urban Institute and their
partner organisation in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, is focused on strategic
planning principles and sharing practical experiences. Thirty participants
comprised of mayors, municipal officials and representatives of relevant
ministries will take part in the two-day training sponsored by OSCE, Canadian
International Development Agency and the Royal Norwegian Government.
The objectives of this two-day workshop are to share experiences and knowledge
in regional development and inter-municipal cooperation between Macedonia,
Bosnia and Herzegovina and Canada; develop an understanding of the shared
issues, challenges and opportunities facing municipalities in the Kicevo
region; and finally, develop a joint action plan for pursuing a cooperative
And I must say that one of the lecturers, as the most interesting person
you maybe interested in as well, is Mr. Selim Beslagic, former mayor of
Tuzla and Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
So, what we would like to do is give media an opportunity to meet all
these people at the seminar by inviting you for lunch on Saturday, in
between 12:00 and 13:30 hrs in Ohrid. We will give out a media advisory
this afternoon, to give you the exact location and where it takes place.
I really would appreciate if you would give us an answer, so we can do
a proper planning, that you really get what you want.
Finally, a reminder, I guess you already got the invitation or you heard
about it – tomorrow at 11 o’clock, the new course at the Police
Academy will be opened by the Minister of Interior. That takes place at
11 o’clock, as I said, at the Police Academy. That is all I have.
Statement by Irena Gjuzelova:
I just want to make a couple of comments. One is about the meeting, which
is scheduled for later this week, among the signatories of the Framework
Agreement. And the other one is about the recent arrest of suspected criminals
involved in organised crime.
We look forward to the meeting which is scheduled for later on this week
among the signatories of the Framework Agreement and welcome the decision
of all the signatories to take part. The meeting will give the Government
the opportunity to present its Action Plan to all the signatories. We
think that the Action Plan will provide an excellent basis for further
discussion and we hope that it will also stimulate discussion on the priority
for the submission of laws to parliament beyond the timelines that are
set down in the Action Plan. Let me just clarify that point a little bit
more. The Action Plan separates the laws that are not related to the decentralisation
process and says that they should be presented and adopted by Parliament
before the summer recess. We hope that the participants will make use
of the meeting to give more precise priorities and a more precise timeline
for these laws.
On another issue regarding security, as you know, the Macedonian police
last week arrested two suspected criminals in Tetovo and over the weekend
arrested another suspect. The fight against organised crime is one of
the main priorities for the EU, and these arrests show that the police
is serious about tackling organised crime, human and drug trafficking.
The arrests, which were also carried out in a very professional manner,
are also a step forward in the return of rule of law. That is all.
Subject to any questions you might have at this time.
A question for Mr. Ratcliff. You said that the liaison teams are still
working on the ground and continue with routine patrols in the crisis
regions, and that they are supporting the legal institutions in the search
for suspicious characters, as you said. So, do you say that there are
suspicious persons and movements in the country?
No, I did not say that, did I? They are out there. Anything we find that
affect the security and stability, we report to legal institutions so
that they can make a firm assessment and truthful assessment of threats
that maybe out there in the area. Tino, you should know that since last
spring, probably almost a year ago, we have seen very little that constitute
any serious stuff out there in the former crisis area. It had been pretty
stable, for the most part.
Now the other Tino.
A list of questions. First, Craig, can you tell us what is the meeting
today with the Foreign Minister, does she need a new pair of shoes in
Well, you know, “Gazela” has been struggling for business,
probably they have a sale going on. I think probably about two months
ago, the Minister and the NATO Headquarters commander with Ambassador
Biegman had a conversation about a visit to “Gazela”. She
was very interested in seeing the NATO operations. So, she is visiting
the commander, will get a tour of “Gazela”, they are going
to give her a little back brief on the NATO operations in support of the
Government, and then I think there is a formal lunch set up after this.
So, I guess that is an opportunity to explain what we do and she gets
a better grasp and understanding of how we fully support.
Second question. There have been many articles that mention that the Iraqi
policy gap between the NATO allies could possibly affect the European
forces’ deployment in the country. Is that true or not?
Ratcliff: I think both of us have a comment on that, Tino. First and foremost,
it has never come up in discussion at NATO recently. We have always felt
that there would never be a gap in security during the normal transition
from NATO to EU, nor do we see anything that is being discussed currently
as having an effect on the operations in the Balkans.
Iraq is one thing, the Balkans is another. All international organisations,
all major powers are in agreement about the policy that has been pursued
in the Balkans. Disagreements over possible policy or lines to take over
the Middle East are not reflected in the Balkans. The Macedonian Government
has requested continuing international security presence in Macedonia,
and the technical details of the handover from NATO to the EU are ongoing.
As you know, last week NATO appointed its deputy SACEUR to be the operational
commander. Preparations are just continuing.
Craig, can you deny that the United States could veto the European forces
deployment in the country as punishment to France and Germany?
As a reminder, Tino, I am the spokesperson for NATO, not for the US.
I am asking you like a NATO Spokesperson.
Ratcliff: I know, but that is an issue…You ask
could the US do it and would they do it? That is strictly a question to
the US mission to the NATO in Brussels and that is an issue you would
have to address to them. So, your question is correct. Could they? Yes.
Would they? I do not know. You got to focus on the US and talk to the
embassy and see what they might say.
Journalist: And the last question for the moment. The Prime Minister hinted
last night in an interview that he could not exclude violent actions in
the former crisis areas. What is your comment?
It is an appropriate question as well. Can you exclude it? No. But you
could argue that there is violent activity today, with the vandalism in
the homes, criminal activity with the murders…those are all violent
acts. So, I think you are absolutely correct, and he was correct –
you cannot exclude the possibility of more violent acts being committed.
Are you asking it that will grow into a more violent…
I am asking in the context of an escalation of the conflict, having in
mind that there is a possible eruption of conflicts, eruption of discontent
with what has been done with the Ohrid Agreement, whether it is possible
to renew the Ohrid Agreement with some new demands...
Everybody is asking that question, could it grow into something bigger?
You know, there is always a potential for something, but do we see that
potential happening here, do we see it growing into something much larger?
No. It remains very stable and very calm, but we have always said it is
fragile at times. So, you know, the police and the army have their hands
full with the criminal groups, but we do not see that growing into something
Just to add, really, and support Craig’s comments. Several incidents
do not add up to a war, several incidents do not add up to anything you
could call an offensive.
And, if I may add, at least to our information, what we see at the moment,
what is showing up as violence has only criminal background, we cannot
see that there is any political support from which side ever for what
may happen or what happens from time to time.
And these groups are small and they are not united. And furthermore and
most importantly, they do not enjoy the support of the local population.
Furthermore, there is nothing new about them. There were rumours of an
imminent spring offensive last year, and nothing happened. So, again just
to repeat, several incidents do not add up to an offensive. As far as
the Framework Agreement is concerned, an agreement already exists that
was reached in August 2001. Since then a lot of work has been done to
implement it, to interpret it, and both the Government and all the signatories
are party to this. I think the one agreement is that there is no rewriting
of the Framework Agreement, that is it, there is only one Framework Agreement.
A question for Irena. The law on passport is once again on the table for
political negotiations. Mr. Le Roy at the time said that an agreement
has already been reached and that the languages of the ethnic communities
would be used on the third page of the passport and that there would be
no other model. So, what is your comment now about this new development?
Just a little comment, it was not Le Roy who said that. The basic principle
behind all of these discussions is that a consensus agreement is found
among all the signatories. That was the whole idea behind the Framework
Agreement. Basically, if there is no consensus, the outcome is not as
solid, it will not necessarily stick, so therefore you have to have everybody
behind the agreement.
There clearly wasn’t a consensus. I mean, you read the newswires.
If you just go back to May, June, you will see clearly that DPA say one
thing and the other parties are saying another thing. I mean, clearly,
there was not a consensus.
Ratcliff: Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you very much for attending. Be
careful out with the snow.